The Micronesian Trade Committee takes bold steps to broaden and deepen sub-regional cooperation and integration among its Member States
Press Release #0712-02
Palikir, Pohnpei – FSM Information Services
July 04, 2012

FSM Dept. of R&D (July 4, 2012):The Minister of Resources and Development of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Honorable Michael Konelios, urged the Micronesian Trade Committee (MTC) to “take bold but sound decisions” to broaden and deepen sub-regional cooperation and integration. Minister Konelios made these comments during the opening of the 5th Meeting of the MTC that was held from June 29 to July 2, 2012, at the Nitijela Conference Room in Majuro, RMI.    

Honorable Minister of Public Infrastructure, Industries, and Commerce of the Republic of Palau (Palau), Jackson Ngiraingas, and Honorable, Secretary of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Department of Resources and Development,  Marion Henry who attended the meeting also reiterated the need to move forward on sub-regional integration on trade as well as other areas of common interest.

The objective of this meeting was for Trade Ministers of the three countries to focus collectively on trade issues of common interest , including the upgrading of the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing the MTC into  a treaty. The Meeting also focused on ongoing regional trade negotiations such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, the extension of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) to trade in services, consultations with the United States of America as required under Section 244 (c) of FSM and RMI’s Amended Compact of Free Association, and cooperation on labor and immigration issues.

In relation to upgrading the MoU establishing the MTC into a treaty, Trade Ministers agreed that the MTC should be established formally as a legal entity and recognized the need of an over-arching institution to enhance subregional cooperation under the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS). With respect to cooperation among MTC Member States on harmonizing labor and immigration laws, Trade Ministers noted RMI’s current practices, granting FSM and Palau citizens preferential treatment as mandated by MPS Leaders. The Ministers also acknowledged that labor and immigration are an important aspect of trade in services, and that harmonization of immigration and labor laws and regulation will help to move forward trade in services in the context of the future Micronesian Trade Agreement. In this regard, Trade Ministers agreed that Heads of Immigration and Labor should convene a meeting to progress this important issue.

Trade Ministers were concerned about the slow progress in EPA negotiations as a result of the delay by the EU to formally respond to the proposals that were submitted by the Pacific region in July last year. They were also concerned with the recent communications from the EU that seem to indicate that the EU is now trying to use the EPA to pursue its commercial interests in the fisheries sector rather than sticking to the original development objectives of EPA that are stipulated in the Cotonou Agreement. To this end, Trade Ministers stressed the need for the Pacific region to continue negotiating a development friendly comprehensive EPA as a single region and conclude the negotiations by the end of 2012 as directed by our Leaders.

The key issues that were highlighted by the Ministers include the extension of global sourcing rules of origin to tuna steaks and fillets and the provision of additional funding to enable the MTC Members to implement the EPA and to take advantage of the opportunities that may be offered by EPA. Ministers also emphasized the importance for regional and sub-regional organizations to coordinate their positions on EPA negotiations, in particular in the area of fisheries given its importance to the region.

Decisions reached by Trade Ministers will be submitted to the 12th Micronesia Presidents’ Summit scheduled for July 5th in Majuro for consideration and endorsement.

Trade Ministers were supported during their 5th Meeting by H.E. Asterio Takesy, Ambassador of the FSM to the US, Mr. Filmon Mawon, RMI Attorney General, Mr. Gainmore Zanamwe, Regional Trade Policy Adviser of the Hub and Spokes Project based at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Trade, Foreign Affairs, and Legal Officials from the three countries. 

The 6th meeting of the MTC will be held in Palau sometime next year, at which time the countries will report back on the actions  on the decisions made at this meeting.
The MTC was formally created in July 2008 in Pohnpei through an MoU, based on a decision of the 7th MPS of September 2007.

For further information on the 5th MTC Ministers Meeting, please contact Mrs. Iva Reimers-Roberto, Chief, Trade and Investment, Ministry of Resources and Development at email: iva1909@yahoo.com Tel. Tel: (692) 625-3206, Fax: (692) 625-7471; or Mrs. Camille Movick-Inatio, Acting Assistant Secretary, Division of Trade and Investment, FSM Department of Resources and Development at email: cmovick@fsmrd.fm, Tel: (691) 320 5133, Fax (691) 320 5854.