The Solomon Islands government is preparing itself for graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status.

Trade Commissioner Mr. Joseph Ma’ahanu told Solomon Times Online that once the country graduates from the LDC status, come December 2024, it will lose all concessions and flexibilities which it currently get as an LDC.

“This therefore, means that only through legally binding agreement, can we be able to sustain duty free quota free access to the markets that we currently enjoy. So, what we are doing as part of our preparations towards LDC graduation is using trade as one of the pillars”, Ma’ahanua says.

The Trade Commissioner says in terms of trading connections and trading arrangements, the government must make sure the country enters into arrangements or agreements with important markets.

“So now we've done this with Europe, the UK, we have this with China, but against which we have had understanding that prior to the commencement of graduated status, we will be talking with China in relation to some kind of Free Trade Agreement, which will continue the duty free access, which we have acquired through the recently formalised exchange of letters.

"And we will also intend to be talking with other important partners in trade, such as Japan, the US to name a few, we'll be doing this in time to come. For Australia and New Zealand, of course, we are already parties to the PACER Plus. So there's a lot of work to do”.

Ma’ahanua however says the government needs to strengthen the external trade department in terms of human resources, and the resources which will be required to do all the work.

“Negotiating these agreements is one thing, but monitoring and facilitating their implementation will be even more challenging, because there are those requirements in terms of obligations, which will require us to report both to the joint implementation committees which are responsible for implementing agreements but as well, reporting obligations that we have with WTO. So there's a lot of work and certainly the kind of numbers in terms of human resources we have in the external department is one that needs to be strengthened in time to come”.

Since 1971, six LDCs have graduated to the category of Developing countries. Vanuatu graduated in 2020 while Solomon Islands, Angola, Bhutan and Sao Taome and Principle are set to graduate in 2024. Decisions on seven more countries, which includes Tuvalu and Kiribati will be made this year.