By EDDIE OSIFELO
THE Government has seen the need to beef up its Mission in Brussels, Belgium, after it closed the offices in United Kingdom and Geneva in Switzerland due to the impact of covid-19.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manale told Parliament last week that Solomon Islands engagement with the bilateral and multi-lateral partners in Europe including the European Union through the Mission in Brussels is crucial in our foreign policy outreach in promoting our interests in that part of the world.
He said since it closed our Missions in Geneva and London, his ministry has consolidated and beefed up our Mission in Brussels to represent our interest in Europe.
Manele said some of the key achievements and deliverables with our Mission in Brussels in 2021 are as follows.
Solomon Islands Accession to the EU-Pacific interim Economic Partnership Agreement.
He said the Interim EPA for EU and Pacific states enable Solomon Islands to access the EU market for its export in goods especially tuna products.
Manele said in 2020 Solomon Islands became the fourth Pacific Islands country to accede to the Interim EPA joining Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
PNG has acceded to the EU Interim EPA since 2009, followed by Fiji in 2014 and Samoa in 2019.
Solomon Islands had been accessing the United Kingdom market for exports of palm oil and tuna through the European Union’s Everything But Arms (EBA) arrangement available for Least Developed Countries (LDC).
Anticipating Solomon Islands graduation from the LDC category in 2024, Solomon Islands in May 2020 acceded to the European Union Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (Interim EPA) with PNG, Fiji and Samoa.
He said in May this year, Solomon Islands benefited from the Global Sourcing Provision of IEPA for its tuna export to EU enabling Soltuna and other potential fish processing investors in Solomon Islands to source tuna from a third country supplier and have it processed locally and qualify as an originating product from Solomon Islands.
Further to that, Manele said the Ministry has also successfully completed Solomon Islands – EU 8th Enhanced Political dialogue on 13th October 2021.
He said an important aspect of the EU ACP Cotonou agreement political dialogue enables bilateral discussion between SI and EU on strengthening our development partnership.
“Solomon Islands use this platform to address common priorities to strengthen our engagement with the EU including addressing covid-19 pandemic, enhancing trade cooperation, concluding the Post Cotonou negotiations, promoting climate actions, combating IUU fishing and promoting ocean governance and protecting human rights,” he said.
Furthermore, Manele said on 15th April 2021, Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and EU concluded negotiations on a new agreement in succeeding the Cotonou agreement.
He said the new agreement would be called the SAMOA agreement.
Manele said the new agreement has regional protocol for each of the OACPS regions to which there will be EU-Pacific regional protocol.
He said the key aspects of the regional agreement will be cooperation on trade and investment, development and regionalization.
Manele said it will cover a large number of areas such as sustainable development and growth, human rights and peace, and security with the aim of promoting regional integration.