Welcome Statement by FSM’s Assistant Secretary for the Division of Trade and Investment, Mr. Florian Yatilman
Kaselehlie, good morning and welcome to the Sensitization Workshop on the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement for FSM national officials.
Let me especially welcome our development partners in the region who are joining us virtually from abroad:
The purpose of the workshop is three fold: firstly, to raise awareness about the IEPA; secondly to discuss some selected IEPA articles that are essential for gaining market entry into the EU; and third to facilitate discussions on the way forward on the IEPA and other national trade and development priorities.
Like many countries in the Micronesian region, the FSM economy is heavily reliant on external aid, and revenues are primarily generated from import tariffs and access fees from selling fishing rights through the VDS. We are losing local talent and skills as our citizen’s migrate abroad to find jobs because of the lack of economic opportunities in-country. This trend is no longer sustainable and has to be arrested.
The President in his State of the nation address last month encouraged ongoing dialogue between the Government and fishing industry to determine where and how we can attract genuine investments on our shores. He also recognized the value in strengthening the capacity of the Competent Authority to help add value to tuna exports.
The European Union being the biggest single market is a viable destination for high value tuna export. In 2021, the total value of EU’s imports of fresh, chilled and frozen tuna was around 596 million US dollars with imports from the Pacific accounting for only 1.22%. While total imports of prepared and preserved tuna was about 1.91 billion dollars with Pacific accounting for 12.89% of the total share.
The fishing industry have been encouraging us to look for markets. The Department of R&D therefore decided to organize this workshop to re-examine FSM’s potential accession to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement – the IEPA could potentially be the framework agreement that paves the way for the establishment of a viable onshore tuna processing industry that adds value to tuna resources and enables a pathway to the EU market for other products as well.
The EPA has been in existence since 2007, and after 18 years there is available data and information that we can use to feed into the policy debate as to whether FSM would benefit from acceding to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement- otherwise our inaction to sign on will be a missed opportunity for FSM.
The duty-free quota-free access granted to Parties to the EPA will be contingent on meeting the Rules of Origin requirements, and I am grateful that we are joined by Mr John Sam from the OCO Secretariat who will deliver a presentation on this specific topic. I understand that John has first-hand experience developing the internal systems and procedures for the IEPA ROO when he was with PNG Customs. Thank you John – we are grateful that you are able to bring your experience and knowledge to share with the region.
I once again wish to welcome and thank our partners the EU represented by Massimo and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat represented by Setaita without your funding support it would not be possible to put this activity together, and also have a Trade Advisor deployed to FSM to assist address trade and development challenges in the region.
Trade is cross-cutting and therefore such outreach activities gives us the opportunity to bring together important stakeholders to exchange views on matters of shared interest and enables capacity building of officers on international trade policy formulation and how it links to their respective department’s functional roles and responsibilities.
With that said, let me also take the opportunity to welcome FSM colleagues in capital who are attending this workshop, I hope that you will be able to enhance your knowledge on the IEPA and trade agreements in general- as key stakeholders and implementors you will be responsible for advising our decision-makers about how FSM takes forward the IEPA and other trade agreements.
So please let me welcome you all once again and I wish you fruitful discussions today.