The Deputy Prime Minister, Joe Natuman, was in Geneva, Switzerland, last week to participate in the biennial “Global Review of Aid for Trade” that kicked off on Tuesday July 11 at World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters, with the heads of multiple international agencies calling for greater efforts to improve digital connectivity, lower trade costs, and improve infrastructure through the Aid for Trade initiative.
The three-day event closed on July 13, after over 50 sessions and plenary events under the theme “Promoting Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable Development”.
This year’s event counted participants from governments, civil society, academia, and international agencies.
The Aid for Trade initiative was launched 2005 in Hong Kong.
“Since its launch, over 300 billion dollars has been disbursed under the Aid for Trade initiative, reaching 146 countries on building trading infrastructure and capacity,” says DPM Natuman, who is also Minister for Trade, Industry, Tourism and ni-Vanuatu Business.
The DPM’s delegation included: the First Political Advisor, George Iapson; Acting Director of Trade Development Division Willie Luen; Director of External Trade in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Sumbe Antas; Harold Tarossa from the Department of Customs; and James Tatangis from the Trade Development Division.
Vanuatu became a member of World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2012 “because we live in a globalised world and no country can afford to remain outside the globalised world whose main activity is trade.”
At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments.
This sets the rules or terms of trade between nations, and without these rules, Vanuatu might not get as good a deal on the global market as it could, being a Least Developed Countries (LDC) with very little industry or manufacture goods for export.
Vanuatu gets special treatment in the global market because of its status as an LDC such as preferential prices for its commodities, of duty exemptions and special quotas on its exports into certain world markets.
These special access are negotiated under the umbrella of WTO, however, all member countries want to see every country eventually playing on the same level playing field.
WTO and United Nations have set timetable for this process to be completed, and for Vanuatu, the graduation date from LDC to Developing Country status is 2020/2021.
This is the date when Vanuatu will lose its status and many of the special privileges that are accorded to it low, including special funding packages.
The country will then graduate to the Developing Country category of the UN.
Vanuatu, as a member of LDC Countries, has been benefitting from special funds from the WTO and its funding partners to help develop our nation’s infrastructure, manufacturing industries and other related services to ensure that it is has the capacity to trade in the open global market after graduation.
One of these funds is the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a multi-donor programme, which helps least-developed countries (LDCs) play a more active role in the global trading system. The programme has a wider goal of promoting economic growth and sustainable development and helping to lift more people out of poverty.
The programme is currently helping 49 poorest countries worldwide, supported by a multi-donor trust fund with a funding target of US$ 250 million.
In Vanuatu, EIF is funding the Vanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Program otherwise known as the Port Vila Seafront Beautification Project.
Deputy Prime Minister spoke of this project at the recent WTO Global Review meeting in Geneva.
“The EIF has a unique strategy of being a catalyst for projects, which in turn helps other donors and the government realize the benefits of trade.
“As a specific example, the Vanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Project, funded by the EIF and other donors, will enable local businesses to capture increased benefits of tourism, by improving the infrastructure for locals and tourists alike, boosting sustainable and inclusive development,” he said.