Shipping costs a trade killer

Forum Trade Ministers and guests.

Forum Trade Ministers and guests.

by Alan Ah Mu

APIA: FRIDAY 19 JULY 2013: Annual efforts by Pacific Island Forum countries to trade more between themselves amount to zero if reliable and affordable shipping is absent.

It was why 12countries formed Pacific Forum Line (PFL) in 1978.

Hailed as a regional success, sadly, for reasons he can never understand it came to dissipate completely, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said today in opening the 2013 Forum Trade Ministers meeting.

He worries that after the good work done on quarantine, rule of origins, product promotions and the like high sea freight rates blocks integrated trade, Tuilaepa said.

“That will be a great pity,” he said.

Samoa bought Pacific Forum Line last year which had suffered significant losses.

Samoa announced a commitment to continue the company’s original goals of encouraging economic development in the islands and provide competition to ensure private shipping operators were unable to create a monopoly in the Pacific.

This morning Tuilaepa said the private sector must never be allowed to wreak havoc in sea transport.

Not much trade exists between island nations except with Fiji, said Samoa’s Minister of Trade, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo.

Much more goods come from Asia because of China via Fiji, Australia and New Zealand, said Fonotoe.

One school of thought believes integrated trade cannot be achieved because of high shipping costs and to attempt it was a gross waste of money.

Yet Forum Trade ministers and officials do attempt it every year.

Forum Trade Officials and Ministers meetings are organised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

This year the officials and Ministers discuss Members’ engagement in the WTO multilateral trade issues; progress in the negotiations of the regional trade agreements, including the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus; the review of the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy; intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge issues; trade and health linkages; and other trade-related work programmes in the region.

Trade Officials and Ministers will also consider the work undertaken by the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PT&I) network of offices to promote the Pacific islands exports, and inward investment and tourism promotion.

The PT&I network has a presence in Auckland, Beijing, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo.

An updated mandate to progress work on regional trade priorities is expected to be agreed to by the Forum Trade Ministers.

The Outcomes of the FTMM will highlight key regional trade-related issues for Forum Leaders’ consideration at their Meeting in September 2013 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

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