Regional Workshop on the World Trade Organisation

A regional workshop for Pacific Island country officials on the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement is currently underway in Apia, Samoa. The workshop commenced on 10 November, and is jointly organised by the WTO and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat under their Memorandum of Understanding aimed at providing technical capacity-building training on WTO trade issues in the region. This is particularly for the six Forum Island countries that are WTO Members: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Negotiations of Samoa, Hon.Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Laufo officially opened the Workshop. In his opening remarks, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that SPS measures for the protection of human, animal and plant health should be a priority in all the Pacific countries and to facilitate trade.

Honorable Fonotoe added that a classic issue that has affected trade negatively in the Pacific is the discriminatory treatment of ‘kava’ in international markets. He stated that discussions were progressing at the international levels on the possibility of developing a regional standard for kava under Codex Alimentarius in the hope of lifting the ban and re-building confidence in the international markets on the safety of kava for human consumption.

“The Workshop aims to enhance the understanding of Pacific Island country officials on the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement and how this Agreement can be applied to ensure that biosecurity measures applied by governments to achieve the legitimate objectives of protecting human, animal and plant health and life do not unnecessarily restrict the trade of Pacific countries,” said Alex Kerangpuna, Trade Policy Officer, of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Geneva Office. “The Workshop will also discuss the challenges that Pacific Island countries are facing in the implementation of the SPS Agreement and share lessons or success stories on how Members are responding to these challenges.”

Representatives from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), and Codex Alimentarius which are the three international standard setting bodies directly involved in animal, plant and food safety are also participating to present their work and the technical assistance they provide in these areas. In addition, the representatives of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the regional Pacific Horticultural Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) programme will provide a regional overview of their work in assisting Pacific Island countries to address SPS measures that affects their exports and imports.

Technical assistance programmes provided by the WTO through the Standard Trade Development Facility (STDF) and the other international organisations to assist the Pacific Island countries with compliance and in addressing biosecurity issues will also be considered at the Workshop.

All the Pacific WTO Members are participating in the Workshop as well as Kiribati and American Samoa. Participants are from Biosecurity Departments, Agriculture, Trade and Health Ministries. -Ends-

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