I would first like to welcome the Delegation of Solomon Islands, led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET), Hon. Milner TOZAKA. My appreciation is extended to the Discussant, H.E. Mrs. Dalia KADIŠIENĖ (Lithuania), for getting us started today with her remarks, as well as to the Secretariat and the Government of the Solomon Islands for their respective reports.
On behalf of the EU, let me express our sympathy on the devastating earthquake a few days ago.
Solomon Islands have a unique environment that includes 75% of known coral species, more than 30% of the world’s coral reefs and the largest mangrove forest in the world. Due to its geographic location and conditions Solomon Islands is very vulnerable to climate change. This is something we need to keep in mind when discussing issues related to trade and environment in the WTO.
Mrs. Chairperson, the economy of the Solomon Islands remains dependent on a few natural resources, logging and fishing, and is vulnerable to commodity price declines.
The EU would like to highlight some of the positive issues that have emerged during this period under review.
First, Solomon Islands has experienced positive economic growth since its last TPR in 2009 and made some positive strides in economic development, including poverty reduction and per capita income increase.
Secondly, Solomon Islands has adopted its first Trade Policy Framework (TPF) in 2015 which aims to improve the medium- to long-term performance of the economy as regards trade and foreign investment. The objectives of the TPF are incorporated in the National Development Strategy 2016-2035 for long-term economic policy. In this regard, the EU notes that the need for diversification of economic activity is particularly urgent. New sources of exports, growth, employment and government revenue are needed to sustain the living standards of the population in the immediate future, and to enable their significant and sustained improvement over the long term. Therefore, the EU encourages the Government of the Solomon Islands to continue its economic reform efforts.
Thirdly, Solomon Islands enacted its public Financial Management Act 2013 which aims to strengthen the framework for the management of public resources through increased transparency, accountability and fiscal reporting and tighter regulation of procurement. The EU encourages Solomon Islands to further pursue the reinforcement of its institutions to ensure a fair, transparent and predictable legal environment.
In this context, the EU would like to highlight the importance for the government to pursue further efforts to fight corruption. The EU calls on Solomon Islands to adopt its anticorruption legislation and to establish an Independent Commission against Corruption.
According to the report by the WTO Secretariat, Solomon Islands' focus on the multilateral trading system could be improved. In February 2016, Solomon Islands notified its Category A commitments under the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation and has now established the National Trade Facilitation Committee, but has not yet submitted its letter of acceptance of the Trade Facilitation Agreement. The EU calls on Solomon Islands to enhance as far as possible its participation in WTO discussions and to complete its internal legislative process for securing prompt approval of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, as also noted by the Discussant.
The EU and Solomon Islands have been partners since the country's independence in 1978. Being a Least Developed Country (LDC), Solomon Islands benefits from the EU support via the "Everything But Arms" scheme, which offers duty and quota free access to the EU market.
Mrs. Chairperson, the EU has submitted a handful of questions and we are particularly interested in receiving information on the government's plans to introduce customary lands policy reforms.
The EU remains committed to support Solomon Island's efforts to face socioeconomic challenges and is confident that this exercise will help Solomon Islands in carrying out its economic reforms in compliance with its international commitments in this forum.
On behalf of the EU, I wish Solomon Islands the utmost success during its Trade Policy Review.