Vanuatu Leader invited to the PIFS-Geneva office.

The Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Hon. Moana Carcasses Kalosil was the first Head of Government from the Pacific to be received as guest at the PIFS-Geneva office this year.

He was accompanied by his Deputy and Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon. Edward Natapei, Hon Joe Natuman, MP and Director General of Foreign Affairs and External Trade Mr Johnny Koanapo.

Ambassador Moses Mose of the Solomon Islands Mission in Geneva joined the Permanent Representative and staff of the PIFS Geneva Office in welcoming Vanuatu’s high level delegation on Monday, 3 March 2014. The delegation was provided with a briefing on the work undertaken by the PIFS-Geneva office, particularly with respect to the World Trade Agreement (WTO) engagements. The delegation also inspected the facilities provided by the Commonwealth Small States Office, which hosts the PIFS-Geneva Office and the Solomon Islands mission.

The Permanent Representative to the WTO, Mrs. Mere Falemaka updated the Prime Minister and his delegation on the outcomes of WTO Ministerial meeting held in Bali in December 2013, including the decisions relating to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the WTO work programme for 2014. The Vanuatu delegation was informed that the three key areas of the LDC Bali package were: Duty free/Quota free market access for LDC exports; Services Waiver for LDC services exports and service suppliers; and Rules of Origin that could benefit LDC countries such as Vanuatu. As part of the LDC efforts to operationalise these decisions, Vanuatu has been chosen from the Pacific region to be part of an LDC group of countries to benefit from a Services Waiver study to be conducted in the next few months. The outcomes of this study would assist Vanuatu in identifying its services export interests and the services suppliers that could be pursued in discussions with developed and larger developing countries. The Vanuatu delegation was also briefed on the internship programs aimed at building capacity of Pacific trade officials and the trade and investment promotion work undertaken by the Pacific Islands Trade & Invest network desk based in the PIFS-Geneva Office.

Ambassador Moses Mose of Solomon Islands Permanent Mission also complemented tPrime Minister of Vanuatu, Moana Carcasses Kalosilhe PIFS-Geneva Office brief by highlighting the importance of the Pacific island nations to having a presence in Geneva to enhance Members’ effective participation and engagement in the multilateral decision-making and the rules-making processes in international organisations such as the WTO and UN agencies. He further added that due to the cost consideration of establishing missions in Geneva, the Pacific island countries may also consider granting the PIFS-Geneva Office extended mandate to cover representative functions on behalf of members not resident in Geneva.

Hon. Kalosil expressed his appreciation to the PIFS-Geneva Office staff and Ambassador Mose for the detailed briefing. He recognised the importance of WTO membership for Vanuatu which allows Vanuatu to have a voice in the multilateral trade rules that are being discussed, and can work collectively with other Members to influence the rules.

Honorable Prime Minister emphasised the importance of addressing the kava ban, saying “that Kava is a very important commodity for Vanuatu, and other Pacific islands countries. Vanuatu’s kava export to Europe has been significant, and we need to work closely together as a group in the WTO, not in isolation”. He commended the Geneva Office for its services to members and assured the office that Vanuatu will work closely with the Geneva Office in promoting the Pacific region’s common trade interests in the WTO.