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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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WTO Director General Praises Samoa Agriculture Products
Honey, coconut oil are ‘specific advantages’ for export

By Kolotita Talatalaga

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Dec. 3, 2012) – Honey and coconut oil could be the next best thing for Samoa’s exports. That’s the opinion of the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Amomuaaletuiatua Pascal Lamy.

In the country for a one-day visit on Wednesday, Amomua told the Sunday Samoan he was impressed by the companies he visited which included Yazaki Samoa Ltd, CCK Ltd and Women in Business Incorporated.

But he was particularly pleased about plans to develop honey and coconut oil.

"Honey and coconut oil is something where Samoa has a specific advantage," he said.

"The conditions in Samoa are good for producing these products – it’s good for exports and you get good prices on markets which consume these products."

Amomua was equally excited about Samoa’s future in the WTO. Samoa’s accession to the WTO means exporting goods like honey and coconut oil will be easier, he said.

Trade, he pointed out, is designed to increase social welfare and reduce poverty. This is the sort of core belief that unites all of WTO members, including new members like Samoa.

"Our first mission at WTO is to make sure that as many markets are open for as many goods where countries can benefit from an export occasion," Amomua said.

WTO also promotes specific market access for least developed countries by providing duty free/quota free market access for exports over least developed countries. For example, even if a country can export duty free/quota free but ‘bumps’ into a "specific sanitary rule", it will prevent food, meat and other products from entering a market.

"We have to make sure that these non-tariff measures are not obstructing trade," he said.

To benefit from the open markets, Amomua said Samoa has to take advantage of the availability of its tradable goods and supply as much as it can.

"Because Samoa has now joined the WTO, Samoa does not have a market access problem," he said.

"That part of the equation is gone. The remaining problem is in growing the supply capacity of Samoa’s people, to produce more products like honey and coconut oil; to raise good added value where the markets are open and where markets are in demand for these products."

There is not a trade problem in Samoa, Amomua said. "The problem is supply," he said.

But WTO does not help a country increase supply, Amomua cautioned.

"We are here to facilitate trade; but it’s up to the locals to work on the resources you have in order to make the products," he said.

"You have the resources, you have the people, you now have the markets – it in your hands... we create assurance the market is there."

Amomua said the Samoa joining the WTO is an "investment" and membership means the WTO will ensure our exports will not be unfairly discriminated.

"If you’re not a member of WTO, any country can do whatever they want with your trade," Amomua said.

"On the contrary, if you are a member of WTO, there are sets of rules and exports cannot be obstructed for reasons which would be unfair – it’s a sort of insurance policy against unfair protectionism."

Amomua said the WTO can help Samoa by ensuring that products from Samoa can penetrate markets – whether developed or developing – in the best possible condition.

"We can help Samoa’s exports by making sure that other obstacles which Samoa would have to face, are streamlined and are the same for other countries too," Amomua said. "This is what we can do on the market access side – we can facilitate and ease products from Samoa; penetrating foreign markets."

Another way WTO benefits Samoa is through the facilitating of ‘trade capacity building’. Amomua used the growing honey industry in Samoa as an example.

"What I saw with the honey here is that you can produce honey in good conditions, and you can reach to some markets," Amomua said. "However, in some markets there will be expensive processes Samoa would have to go through, to make sure the honey is in prime condition for export – this is a way WTO can help."

The benefits may look attractive, but were some challenges Samoa had to face to gain WTO membership. Amomua said in order for Samoa to join the WTO, it had to take a number of commitments on the stabilization and the opening of its market.

An update had to be carried out on a number of rules, legislations, and regulations to do trade.

Controversially, this saw the ban on turkey tails lifted; however, Amomua said these changes are "good for Samoa."

"There are some areas where Samoa had to change certain standards to adjust to WTO standards," Amomua said. "But for the price of this, you get advantages on the export side. Your own exports will not be restricted by certain rules - which is always possible if you are not a member of WTO." WTO hopes to eventually include all countries in the world.

"We are nearly there – there will probably be 160 countries by sometime next year, which leaves very few countries outside. We cover 97 per cent of world trade," Amomua said.

Asked about his one-day visit, Amomua said he enjoyed Samoa very much and was grateful for the experience.

"I heard about Pacific Island hospitality and about your traditions of welcome," he said. "I’ve been very impressed and moved – there are smiles everywhere, which I think is the brand name of your country."

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