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There is a need to boost the intra-Melanesian Spearhead Group trade as some MSG countries currently charge higher tariffs than the normal “most favoured nations (MFN) ” tariff.

Special Trade and Economic Officials Meeting chair and Fiji’s Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Mr Shaheen Ali told trade officials at the MSG meeting today that “intra-MSG trade is small compared to trade with non-MSG partners”.

“While Fiji’s trade with MSG countries has been important, most of it takes place outside the MSGTA (MSG Trade Agreement)”, he said.

He reminded participants that currently there were some instances where MSG tariffs to MSG member countries were higher than the normal MFN tariffs.

“Colleagues, this is not only inconsistent with our international obligations but runs counter to the spirit and the ethos of MSG.”

The TEOM is the core of the MSG by virtue of churning out the important decisions to progress the trade and economic well being of the region, Mr Ali said.

“The outcomes of our deliberations will form the way forward for the MSG Members, after being considered by the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), and endorsed by the Foreign Ministers (FMM) and the Leaders,” he said.

Mr Ali re-emphasised the sentiments of Fiji’s Prime Minister and MSG chair Voreqe Bainimarama that “progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing towards what will be” after he spoke on progressing issues discussed at the meet.

The chair was of the view that it was imperative that the MSG, and the TEOM in particular, in order to become progressive and a strong bloc, must have a vision and cannot afford to backtrack.

He noted that much of the resources, skills and knowledge of the South Pacific rests with the five MSG countries.

The TEOM over the next two days will discuss an array of issues including the MSG Rules of Origin Handbook, MSG Skills Movement Scheme (SMS), MSGTA Review Study and new architecture, Principles for Enhancing Fiscal Management in Melanesia and the Memorandum of Understanding on Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

The Trade in Services Sub-Committee (TISSC), Customs and Quarantine (CQSC), Economics and Social Development Sub-Committee (ESDSC) and the Fisheries Technical Advisory Committee (FTAC) will also be presenting the outcomes of their meetings.
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