THE country’s first trade policy framework has been officially launched in Honiara yesterday.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Milner Tozaka launched it alongside the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor.
A statement from the Foreign Affairs and External Trade said, the framework lays out the main principles that will guide trade policy in Solomon Islands over the coming years.
Last month it was officially endorsed by the primary decision-making and advisory body on trade matters, the National Trade Development Council.
Minister Tozaka during the launch highlighted the critical role trade plays in the economy.
“As an isolated small island state, trade has helped us overcome inherent vulnerabilities and opened up new possibilities. It has contributed to our economic development and provided us the opportunity to enjoy access to goods and services that we neither produce nor provide locally.”
He stressed that the key to increasing the benefits from trade is to increase our capacity to produce higher value goods.
“While we aspire to gain greater access to foreign markets, we face serious challenges in growing viable export industries and adding value to our abundant natural resources.
“Implementing and building on the recommendations contained in our Trade Policy Framework, Solomon Islands will cultivate a dynamic and diverse productive sector which will enable us to truly take advantage of multilateral and regional trading arrangements.”
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat supported development of the document as part of a regional programme.
Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor commented on the critical role of the framework, “This framework seeks to mainstream trade into the national development strategy. Such integrated engagement will assist in the medium to long-term performance of the Solomon Islands economy, and establish a policy platform that builds upon and coordinates sectoral priorities.”
Another area emphasised by Mr Tozaka was the potential of labour mobility to benefit Solomon Islands.
“Expanding and targeting opportunities for gainful employment within the region will help us confront demographic and economic challenges including the high level of youth unemployment.
“Workers abroad remit earnings, invest in commerce and education, and return with valuable skills, as well as contributing to their host economies.
“As has been the case for many of our Pacific neighbours, increased labour mobility will empower Solomon Islanders to reach their full potential while contributing to vast improvements in living standards and economic gains.”
The framework was drafted by the Ministry over the past two years with support from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
It builds on contributions from stakeholders across Solomon Islands including workshops in Honiara, Auki, Gizo, Noro, Buala and Lata.
The National Trade Development Council, chaired by Mr Tozaka, will now work to implement the recommendations of the framework.