Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders have been called on to re-engineer and formulate a new roadmap to remain a relevant and much sought after sub-regional trading block.
Papua New Guinea deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion addressed the MSG leaders in Port Moresby the past week. He urged them to put together clear goals to pursue and attract new members to the MSG family.
He singled out serious questions that needed to be answered by the responsible leaders in order to pursue a bigger global market and family.
"The MSG has to re-engineer itself and formulate a new road map with clear goals that we want to pursue," Mr Dion said.
"This is in order to remain a relevant and a much sought after sub-regional trading bloc, which is critical to attract new members to join our MSG family.
"The responsibility on you here at the MSG trade ministers' meeting is to define the future of the MSG as a serious regional trading bloc.
"Our future hangs in the balance and now in the hands of you my good MSG trade ministers and officials gathered here today.
"Do we add new chapters and take MSG trade and investment to the next level or we resort to bilateral trade agreements if member economies see a win-win opportunity to do business with each other."
"Should the MSG be a political lobby group as it was then when it was first founded, or is there potential for the MSG to evolve into a major sub-regional trading block.
"What is the current and future role of MSG and why should each member economy continue to be a trading partner in the MSG trading block operating under the MSG trade agreement.
"What is the MSG sub-regional group anchored on? What are its foundational pillars and its future in terms of value?"
Under one roof
Mr Dion stressed the MSG countries' economic, social, cultural and environment dynamics present unique challenges for the respective governments and the people.
But, he said: "Everyone in the MSG must also appreciate that we are part of a bigger global community that is opening up for free trade under a more integrated common market."
The Deputy PM told the leaders there was a political will if they all agreed to chart out a new path under a revised MSG trade agreement.
Meanwhile, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) countries still do very little trade amongst themselves in the trading of goods and this has raised eyebrows of emerging nations. Mr Dion criticised the leaders for being negligent to trade with each other.
He told the leaders that after 21 years of trading under the MSG Trade Agreement with PNG, they still have not achieved the outcomes. These were such as agreeing on a fixed deadline to have an MSF Free Trade Areas (FTA) and the establishment of double tax incentives among themselves.
"I understand only PNG and Fiji have a double tax treaty and there is no investment promotion and protection agreement among ourselves," Mr Dion said.
"We have failed to make even travel for our businessmen and women easier in terms of connectivity because we still do not have a MSG travel card 21 year similar to the APEC card.
"Air and sea connectivity is mixed in terms of serious connectivity. "We still do not have a harmonised customs union to easily facilitate intra MSG trade and investment and our policies and negotiations are not friendly to facilitate trade amongst MSG member States.
"The trading of goods amongst our member economies has declined significantly."
(Source: Fiji Sun)