FOLLOWING Exchange of Letters in December 2020 the non-Reciprocal Trade Agreement offered by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) entered into force and provisional application on 1st February 2021 as the Department of Trade under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held talks on Tuesday.
Speaking to this paper in an exclusive interview the Trade Commissioner Joseph Ma’ahanua said since establishing a formal relationship with PRC there was a number of MOUs signed by both countries.
He added that among them being that on reaching and forging close socio-economic cooperation development between Solomon Islands and PRC.
“Under this particular connectivity we have this potential to formalise trade relations with PRC,” he added.
It was understood that China is Solomon Islands number one (1s) export destination and also third (3rd) source of import according to 2019 trade figures.
“So trade wise they important to Solomon Islands even before two countries established the formal relationship,” Ma’ahanua added.
But on the discussion on Tuesday, Ma’ahanua said his office with other officers from other trade-related government agencies managed to discuss with the Cooperation and Economic Affairs of the Embassy of People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Honiara
The discussion was mainly on very important areas involving trade between the two countries.
PRC offered the non-Reciprocal Trade Arrangement to the Solomon Islands and that offer Ma’ahanua said PRC gave us 97 percent duty-free access for our products to enter the Chinese market.
“We get that offer but it must be understood that it was not negotiated but its conditions will be based on a General Scheme of Preferences (GSP) and it’s applicable to our marketable products.
“On that same note accompanying the non-Reciprocal Trade Offer after we sign it, was the list of products to be granted exemption and secondly a rule of originating products document from them,” he explained.
He further said that his office will be getting our authorities particularly to get them aware of the rules of originating document.
The good news is Ma’ahanua said that the real beneficiaries will be our private sector because they are already producing goods already whether it be from fisheries, agriculture or aquaculture.
“They are the important sector that the rule of originating products applied to and more so they are the ones to make good use of it,” he added.
He confirmed that this arrangement becomes effective as of 1st of February 2021 and it will be only dictated by the ‘rule of origin’.
Ma’ahanua however highlighted that one of the key problems associate with this type of arrangement is meeting the standards of whichever country we engage in trade with.
“Especially for agricultural products is it really practical for us or are we capable of meeting international standards or do we have an established rule that sets the standards and quality.
“Good example is our neighbouring friend Australia if our products do not meet their standards then they cannot accept it.
“With China we haven’t established any formal mechanism so the discussion on Tuesday touched on this issue,” Ma’ahanua added.
He added that they were exploring establishing a Biosecurity and Phytosanitary Protocol that will enable practical utilisation of the 97 percent non-reciprocal duty-free access offered by PRC to Solomon Islands.
“More so the discussion will continue to deepening the relationship between the two countries and economies through mechanisms that will serve towards sustainable growth and related opportunities,” Ma’ahanua told this paper yesterday.
By ANDREW FANASIA