The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Group over the last few years has continued to strengthen as a significant group in the region.
This message was stressed by the Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali, who was chairing the second MSG Trade and Economic Officials meeting this week in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Mr Ali said the group had become a catalyst for trade and economic integration in the Pacific.
“We, the MSG Trade and Economic Officials, are part of an important phase of our sub-regional bloc’s economic and trade development,” he said.
“The MSG is transforming itself as a vehicle to progress the trade and economic wellbeing of our MSG member states.
“This meeting will witness and usher in further milestones and achievements towards the path of attaining a common economic union and a single market, as envisaged by our leaders.”
Mr Ali indicated the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Skills Movement Scheme, would revolutionise the movement of skilled labour across borders – under the broad framework of cooperation and partnership.
“This initiative will become a model for the Pacific and other regions to enhance their labour market integration,” he said.
During the meeting, deliberations were held on the reports from various sectoral subcommittees (on key industries such as fisheries, forests and mining).
Mr Ali stressed to the senior trade officials: “We need to support and guide the work of the subcommittees in their efforts to foster greater collaboration amongst ourselves, in ensuing the sustainable use and development of our precious natural resources.
Mr Ali reiterated comments made by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama during the opening of the Special MSG Summit last month where he had said that one of the key sources of strength for the MSG bloc was the MSG Trade Agreement.
The agreement sets the foundation for regional development and growth.
“Since the MSG Trade Agreement was revised in 2005, certain anomalies remain that prohibit the free flow of goods between our countries, particularly the inconsistent negative list provisions,” Mr Ali said.
“The review of the MSG Trade Agreement is timely, and is one of the issues you will be deliberating on.
“Whilst it is important that we keep updating and modernising our agreement, we also need to ensure the review will take us forward, and the progress that has been made thus far is not lost.
“In this respect, we need to face the problems head-on and eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.
“This can only be achieved by us, countries and stakeholders, working together to overcome the roadblocks and regulatory challenges towards the full implementation of the agreement.”
Mr Ali said it goes without saying that unity lies at the very heart of the MSG and it is linked to our survival and wellbeing and is part of the Melanesian way.
“Unity within the MSG will enable us to overcome new and external challenges within our region and internationally, because our aspirations, goals and vision are one,” he said.
“I have faith that our committee will continue its phenomenal work-rate and progress.
“As a collective group, we should not lose sight of our prime objective, which is to continue to review and remove inconsistencies and impediments that exist in the MSG trade, to allow for long term growth and integration into a single, prosperous and thriving economic bloc.”
The MSG Trade and Economic Officials’ Meeting concluded yesterday with key outcomes that will enable the MSG countries to move forward as a unified group.