Solomon Islands Signs Melanesian Free Trade Agreement

Prime Minister Sogavare signing the new MSG Free Trade Agreement. Looking on are the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Milner Tozaka, Deputy Director-General of the MSG Secretariat, Mr Kilpak and an Administrative Officer from the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ms Joy Tealiklava.

 Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare became the first Melanesian leader to sign the MSG Melanesian Free Trade Agreement, pledging his government’s full support for ratification of the Trade Agreement, as formalities are set down.

The MSG Free Trade Agreement is an expansion of the former agreements and includes trade in services, investment and labour mobility.

Prime Minister Sogavare who is also the MSG Chair, was elated at the new development in the sub-regional trade deal saying the agreement signals a new area for trade within the Melanesian region.

“Solomon Islands is happy to sign. Strategically, it is the right thing to do now”, he said when signing the new Melanesian Free Trade Agreement last Friday in Honiara.

He hailed the new trade agreement as ‘one of the answers’ to aid the economies of the Melanesian bloc, praising the contributions of the MSG Secretariat, as he thanked the MSG delegation. “Melanesia countries have more to gain out of this opportunity and I am excited as MSG Chair,” he said.

He said the signing of the new free trade agreement will harness the strengths and tap the opportunities of the Melanesian economies as they move to implement a free and integrated trade zone.

“It is just appropriate that we conclude this signing process,” he said, “As the Pacific island countries are moving towards completing the regional PACER- PLUS with Australia and New Zealand”.

The Melanesia Free Trade Agreement will come into force as long as two MSG Members ratify the Agreement.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Milner Tozaka said the Cabinet of Solomon Islands agreed to ratify the Trade Agreement once ratification processes are put in place.

Deputy Director General of MSG Secretariat Molean Kilepak said the next countries to sign will be Fiji and Papua New Guinea followed by Vanuatu.

Mr Kilepak thanked Prime Minister Sogavare on behalf of the Director General Amena Yauvoli, for taking the lead as the first country to ink the milestone achievement.

“It is a milestone for the MSG Secretariat and a great achievement for Melanesia”, said Mr Kilepak.

The signing was witnessed by Minister Tozaka, Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Joseph Ma’ahanua, Special Secretary to MSG Chair, Mr Rence Sore and MSG Secretariat Programme Manager, Trade and Investment, Mr John Licht.