Director of the Department of Trade in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Barrett Salato has refuted claims by the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) that the department is not providing adequate consultative mechanisms for the private sector in trade negotiation processes.

Mr Salato said the statement by SICCI is puzzling considering the number of consultations that his department has carried out including the involvement of SICCI in those consultations.

He added that Department of External Trade always strive to keep the private sector informed of progressions and incorporate their input into negotiating positions which is adequately reflected in the department’s consultative and information dissemination activities over the past year.

“While we welcome constructive criticism through the appropriate channels we believe that these claims lack a substantive basis and serve to undermine rather than support the consultative processes. In fact, we recently invited SICCI to three trade negotiation workshops which they did not attend,” Mr Salato said.

The Department of External Trade is currently engaged in negotiations alongside 12 other Forum Island Countries with Australia and New Zealand on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus). The negotiations are supported by the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) based in Port Vila.

Regarding the issue of sufficient education for the private sector regarding technical trade issues, the Department of External trade is arranging for OCTA to visit Solomon Islands later this year in order to carry out a workshop for private sector organizations on rules of origin.

OCTA will also host national consultations to discuss issues related to PACER Plus and inform stakeholders of progress in the negotiations so far.

Last year the Department of External Trade founded the National Trade Development Council, Chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade in order to ensure that the private sector has their say in trade policy and to keep them informed of the progressions of various trade-policy activities.

This year the Department will formulate Solomon Islands’ first National Trade
Policy which will provide a framework for future negotiations and trade
development initiatives.

Mr Salato remains optimistic about the Department’s future interactions with the
private sector.

“It’s one of our guiding principles that, at the end of the day, it’s the private sector that actually trade, so we make every effort to ensure that they are at the centre of our trade policies,” Mr Salato said.

The External Trade Department have held six activities this year that specifically
discussed the potential costs and benefits of PACER Plus and solicited feedback
and input from the private sector through ongoing dialogue with the private and
public sector organizations.

Trade negotiations are a gradual process and the government’s policy positions
evolve during consultation with different stakeholders to accommodate changes
that occur at different times.

“We look forward to working alongside the private sector in continuing to ensure
that their concerns are adequately reflected in our trade policies and we
encourage them to actively engage with us,” Salato said.


Source: Press Release, Government Communications Unit