Regardless of its geographical location, the European Union remains Solomon Islands’ second largest trading partner for its exports, and there’s more the country could do to expand on the market.
Palm oil from the Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oils Ltd (GPPOL), loin tuna from Soltuna, copra and virgin oil are currently exported to lucrative markets in the EU in return for millions of dollars.
Head of delegation to the Pacific African Caribbean and Pacific (PACP) Trade Ministers Meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji this week and high commissioner to Fiji, Joseph Maáhanua stated that these exports are entering the EU market under the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) with the EU.
Solomon Islands and five other Pacific Islands countries are amongst those that signed IEPA with the EU allowing its exports to enter the market on duty free and quota free access.
Regardless of that, Maáhanua who was once the country’s ambassador to the EU said under the IEPA trade in goods a lot of negotiations still needed to be done that’s why it is an interim agreement.
“What we proposed is that there is a phased process if the agreement on goods and services were to be completed,” said the high commissioner.
On our goods entering the EU market, Maáhanua said that what attracted Solomons to sign on to the IEPA was the global fishing rule.
He explained that previously when Solomon Islands’ sent boats that flew the flags of Japan, China, Taiwan or any other countries even if they caught fish in “our waters” it was never considered by the EU as a fish from the Solomon Islands on the rules of origin because of the flags they were flying.
However, Maáhanua further explained what the EU did had helped by agreeing that any fish that is caught in the Pacific waters including Solomon Islands and transhipped in “our country” and follow “our” export regulations with at least 10 percent of their catch must land on shore has helped the fishing industry greatly.
He said this had aided Soltuna to have enough tuna enabling it to raise its supply of fish to produce its products and increase its export to the EU. Also, the tuna qualifies to be exported to the EU as a Solomon Islands fish under the duty free and quota free access.
“That’s what attracted us to sign mainly because Soltuna needed the raw material,” he explained.
Maáhanua further explained that this was because Soltuna could only produce 40% of fish but under the IEPA they were able to get the rest of fish from other foreign fishing vessels that transhipped in the country.
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