Support for Pacific islands to advance work on Trade Facilitation Agreement

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to co-operate in providing assistance to the Pacific islands members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to support their engagement in the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

The MOU was signed by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor and Mr Gavin Murray, Regional Manager for the Pacific at IFC.

“The high costs, bureaucratic procedures and burdensome multiple documentation requirements related to the clearance of goods at the border form some of the greatest obstacles to trade in Pacific island countries. These in turn result in delays in the delivery of goods required for domestic production as well as exports. The MOU between the PIFS and the IFC will institute joint efforts to assist the Pacific islands WTO members improve their trade facilitation,” says the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor.

By implementing the TFA, the Pacific island countries will stand to improve their trade through the current regional trade integration initiatives such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement, the South Pacific Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation (SPARTECA) and other bilateral trading arrangements currently in place. The TFA generally supports the Pacific islands countries’ integration into the global economy. The capacity building through the TFA will assist the Pacific islands countries’ participation in their projected trade and economic agreements with Australia and New Zealand, the European Union and other economies.

”Implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement will increase competitiveness in the Pacific. By streamlining trade and increasing transparency, it will boost exports, lower costs for business, and deepen regional integration among the Pacific islands. Leadership from the Pacific in implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement will send an important signal about the region’s support for the WTO and the TFA. IFC is pleased to be supporting these efforts” Mr Murray said.

The IFC technical assistance to the Pacific islands WTO members on the finalisation of their needs assessment and the categorization of their commitments under the TFA for notification to the WTO has commenced. The IFC assistance to the region is expected to cover all the Pacific islands WTO Members by July, culminating in a regional workshop to consolidate the work undertaken.

“I commend the IFC in acting swiftly to deliver the TFA technical assistance to the Pacific region. The IFC has assisted Papua New Guinea undertake the necessary internal consultations in March 2015 to finalise the categorization of its commitments under the TFA which would enable PNG to prepare its notification to the WTO. The IFC and PIFS’ assistance will greatly assist the Departments of Trade, Customs and other border agencies as well as the private sector in creating better awareness of the benefits of the TFA. I look forward to the successful conclusion of the technical assistance in the remaining Pacific islands WTO members” says Dame Taylor.

The Technical Assistance Project is funded by the IFC through donor support from Australia, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, USA & the European Union and coordinated by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat through its Permanent Representative Office to the WTO in Geneva.

Mr Gavin Murray, Regional Manager for the Pacific at IFC (left) and the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.


Background Information:

The WTO TFA, endorsed at the WTO Ninth Ministerial Conference (MC9) in December 2013, aims to facilitate trade and reduce trade costs by improving the clearance of goods at the border through simplified and coordinated border clearance processes.

The TFA has potential benefits for the Pacific countries given that Pacific exports have high imported content, hence much of their exports rely heavily on imported raw materials, accessories or packaging materials so an efficient and cost effective clearance system for quick turnaround time is important.

The TFA will also assist the Pacific countries engage with donors and development partners to secure technical and financial assistance to implement the commitments in the Agreement which they cannot implement on their own.

The competitiveness of Pacific exports entering other markets also depends on less costly and efficient clearance systems. The TFA will require the Pacific countries’ trading partners to undertake the required reforms to facilitate trade, including the export of Pacific products. These reforms will also complement the Pacific countries’ desire to diversify their export markets.

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