The National Trade Development Council was convened on June 3rd to discuss progress on the ongoing Trade Policy Framework consultations and contribute to its formulation.
The Department of External Trade, with support from the Pacific Islands Forum, is currently drafting a Trade Policy Framework for Solomon Islands that will lay the foundation for the country’s first National Trade Policy.
A government statement said the document aims to align trade policy with sectoral priorities in other Ministries, also taking into account the views of the private sector and civil society.
Trade agreements now typically cover many areas traditionally not associated with trade from industrial development policy to trade in services such as banking and tourism which critically require a representative trade policy framework to ensure Solomon Islands’ trade relations reflect national policy priorities.
Dr. Chris Noonan, a Professor at the University of Auckland, is supporting the Department of External Trade in drafting the document.
In the discussions Dr. Noonan says an emerging consensus from the consultations that trade is not an end in itself but one mechanism to achieve society’s objectives should be on enhancing the role of trade in the economy as a means to reducing poverty and raising the level of human development.
Meanwhile, he adds trade is not limited to goods but includes diverse forms of economic relations between people, business, government adding, this covers the movement of money, people and knowledge inwards and outwards of Solomon Islands.
In terms of provincial consultations, Director of External Trade Barrett Salato says it is clear that key priorities for the private sector, especially in the provinces access finance for small to medium enterprises, building productive capacity and the construction of adequate infrastructure to facilitate business growth.
The Trade Policy Framework will seek to identify how trade policy can support these priorities to enable increased commerce and trade.
According to Mr. Salato another key outcome of the consultation is that stakeholders want increased access to job opportunities abroad and the extension of current seasonal worker schemes with Australia and New Zealand to more skilled sectors in order to build the skills of participants and increase the development impact of the schemes.
He noted that if Australia and New Zealand are truly concerned with the well-being of Solomon Islanders they need to make labour mobility a development priority in their bilateral relationship with Solomon Islands.
They can achieve many times the development impact currently achieved through improvements to the seasonal worker programs that have been proven to benefit employers, employees, Solomon Islands and the host country.
This round of consultations includes visits to Isabel, Temotu and Malaita provinces.