The Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) worked in collaboration with officials from the External Trade Division within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade (MFAET) in conducting an awareness program on the Pacific Agreement on Close Economic Relations (PACER Plus) in Lata, Temotu Province on Friday 27th September 2019.
This was part of the External Trade Division’s efforts to prepare Solomon Islands for ratification of the PACER Plus Trade agreement.
The objective of the awareness program is to ensure that key stakeholders in the country are aware of the PACER Plus and also to understand the issues and complexities that come with the Trade Agreement.
SICCI, as the peak body representing private sector in the Solomon Islands, and in its role as co-Chair of the National Trade Development Council, is part of this preparation towards ratification of this Trade Agreement as it impacts industry in the country as well.
The Chamber therefore took the opportunity to make comments on the prospects and some challenges to manage that the Trade Agreement would entail, especially in regards to business and prospects for growth.
SICCI Advocacy Officer, Mr John Ta’amora, who represented the Chamber at the awareness in Lata, commended the External Trade Division of MFAET in conducting these awareness programs not only in Honiara but also in going around the country to ensure key stakeholders are aware of the PACER Plus and also to understand the issues and complexities that come with the Trade Agreement.
“Further to that, stakeholders are being informed about the opportunities that are readily available to take advantage of. Also, the challenges that must be addressed in order for Solomon Islands to meaningfully participate under the PACER Plus agreement,” Mr Ta’amora said.
Mr Ta’amora highlighted in his presentation during the awareness in Lata what SICCI views as opportunities and some challenges associated with PACER Plus.
He said PACER Plus will encourage trade and investment in the region, increase domestic economic activity, lower costs for local companies, improve the business climate, and create new opportunities.
Stakeholders from the Temotu Provincial Government Executive, Senior Provincial Administration officials and representatives from the private sector and the NGO community attended the awareness in Lata.
Director of External Trade, Mr George Tuti delivered the main presentation during the awareness program which focused on the overview of PACER Plus Trade Agreement.
PACER Plus is a regional development-centred trade agreement. It is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) covering goods, services and investment.
Meanwhile, Mr Ta’amora also used the opportunity to make known to those attending the awareness program in Lata the work SICCI is doing as the representative of businesses and private sector in the country.
“There was interest among small businesses in the province (Temotu) to become members of SICCI, and as a member-driven organisation we are determined in our efforts to connect with businesses in the provinces and rural areas including the remote headquarter in Lata.’
“Actively talking to businesses in different provinces, understanding their biggest challenges to their operations, and explaining what it is that we do with policy dialogue with Government, this really makes us truly representative in our advocacy efforts,” Mr Ta’amora said.
SICCI was requested to have further discussions with the Temotu Development Authority (TDA) representative as the private sector arm of the Provincial Government and other small private sector business when the awareness program was concluded.
To help support businesses in the rural areas where close to 80% of the country’s population dwell, SICCI this year once again continued with its provincial outreach to Western, Malaita and Makira/Ulawa Provinces where business trainings were facilitated for businesses there.
A total of 48 participants attended the trainings this year in the provinces of which more than 70% were women as valued employees, and as business owners.