I would first like to welcome the Delegation of the Kingdom of Tonga, led by H.E. Hon. Mr. Tatafu Moeaki, Minister for Ministry of Trade and Economic Development. I would also like to thank the WTO Secretariat and the Tongan government for their reports, which form the basis for our discussion today. Let me extend our appreciation to the Discussant, H.E. Mr. Mikael ANZÉN for his comments and introducing us to the country's trade policy review.
Chair, this is Tonga’s second review since its accession to the WTO in 2007, and I would like to start by noting that Tonga is an outstanding example of how beneficial participation in the WTO can be for a small island economy.
The EU recognises that Tonga is the smallest Pacific WTO member, whose largely rural communities depend on agriculture and fisheries. Like much of the world, Tonga has faced the economic downturn of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though Tonga has no confirmed cases, the country has been affected by the suspension of international tourism, which had knock-on effects on the broader economy.
As noted in the Government and Secretariat reports, Tonga is particularly vulnerable to climate change and prone to natural disasters, such as the devastating tropical cyclone Gita in 2018. When discussing trade and environment issues at the WTO, it is evident that Members need to take into account the particular exposure of countries like Tonga to the effects of climate change.
We welcome Tonga’s efforts towards ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2021, and its participation in the TFA notification process. The EU encourages Tonga to complete its internal legislative process for securing the prompt approval of the TFA.
The EU commends Tonga for its remarkable effort over the last year to close the gaps in its notification performance. This commitment to transparency shows Tonga’s appreciation for international trade rules. We trust that the technical work to prepare the notifications has been beneficial for the Tongan authorities, too, and that they will not hesitate to draw on the Secretariat’s resources again in order to keep Tonga’s notifications up to date in the future.
The EU is a steady and major supporter of Tonga's economic development and a key partner in Tonga's integration into the global marketplace. Cognisant of how significant Aid for Trade support is for Tonga to enhance its trade capacity, the EU is one of Tonga’s top Aid for Trade donors.
The EU welcomes Tonga's increasing openness to international trade and supports Tonga’s efforts to diversify its economy further. We strongly welcome Tonga's request for accession to the interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands, which we hope will provide a long-term platform for our trade relations. The EU stands ready to closely work with Tonga to ensure effective accession to, and implementation of the EPA and to further develop our trade and investment relationship.
On behalf of the EU, I look forward to a constructive exchange of views and wish the Kingdom of Tonga the best of success during its second Trade Policy Review. Thank you.