PORT VILA, 21 OCTOBER 2019 (VANUATU DAILY POST) — Vanuatu will join its Pacific Least Developed Countries (LDC) member states participate in the Regional Workshop on LDC graduation in Port Vila from 22 -24 October at Holiday Inn resort.

The workshop is jointly organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) secretariat in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), and is supported through the Enhanced Integrated Framework secretariat (EIF) implementing project in Geneva. The workshop will bring together Pacific island countries who are members of the WTO and non-WTO members. The workshop includes representatives from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa, Maldives and Vanuatu.

The workshop is aim to improve the understanding and knowledge of participants on the trade related implications on LDC graduation, international support measures and to build capacity to address challenges that would arise from the loss of LDCs specific benefits. The workshop will provide an opportunity for the participants to examine the likely impact on their participation in the WTO. The participants should play an active role in identifying options and strategies for their countries to smoothly integrate into the global economy for successful LDC graduation and sustainable development.

The workshop will receive a number of presentations from the WTO Secretariat, United Nations committee for development policy (UNCDP), Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Enhance Integrated Framework (EIF), UNESCAP and the Common wealth secretariat.

Topics of the sessions would focus on the LDC criteria for development policy, the procedures followed for graduation and the mechanism to both monitor progress and assist LDCs in the post-graduation phase; LDC graduation and matters related to WTO agreement implications for special and differential treatment and market access; graduating LDCs context in preparations for the WTO twelve ministerial conferences (MC12) and the ongoing WTO reform discussions; international support measures on areas other than trade; and preparations by government for graduation to address the likely challenges that could arise from graduation.

Other presentation would include findings from country studies on specific analysis undertaken for Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu as part of the EIF- WTO LDC graduation project. It will be presented by the consultants at the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, and the Development division at the WTO.

The study will report on the challenges and possible options on areas of the regional trade, development cooperation as well as the context of the overall economic land scape.

Interestingly, the workshop will hear from the graduation experiences of the beautiful countries of Maldives and Samoa graduated from their LDC status in 2011 and 2014. Their experiences will be followed by the international organizations presentation focusing on the technical assistance and capacity building support provided by the international agencies to ensure smooth transition for graduating LDCs.

Vanuatu is also given the opportunity to present its draft LDC smooth transition strategy on the opportunities and challenges it faces in its preparation process. The LDC graduation smooth transition strategy is coordinated by the Prime Minister’s office, through its LDC National Coordinating Committee (NCC) secretariat, who is presenting at the workshop.

For a Country to be eligible to graduate, it has to meet either two of identification criteria which include Per Capita Gross National Income (GNI), the Human Asset Index (HAI) and the economic vulnerability. A country will meet any of the two criteria’s to be eligible to graduate. Tri-annual review will be made and following the condition that the country meets the condition the second time, there will be a three (3) years transitional period and a smooth transition for a period for one year for graduation.

Vanuatu was first included in the list of LDC’s in 1985, and later identified for graduation in 2006 and subsequently in 2009 and again in 2012. Vanuatu had made progress, having met two (2) of the three criteria for graduation in two consecutive rounds. At the 2015 triennial review, it was decided that Vanuatu would be eligible for graduation in 2017 but, due to the distractions caused by TC PAM, the transition period was extended by a period of three (3) years until 1 January 2020. However, Vanuatu is destined to graduate in December 4, 2020.

Vanuatu LDC graduation announcement is good news, which presents its maturity and growth as a nation. Vanuatu graduation may not bring new challenges, such as on international trade preferential treatment at the WTO trade agreements but our physical remoteness, lack of economies of scale and inherent high cost of transport, vulnerability to disasters, economic constraints stem from reduced diversification of export markets and products, all contributes to a systemic lack of competitiveness.

For Vanuatu graduation to a developing state would not cause any major impact on its trade and development aspirations. Several studies and reports supporting Vanuatu graduation assured the government of its continuous benefits on financing development, official development assistance and access to export markets.

The Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Ralph Regenvanu is giving his opening remarks at the workshop and wishes to convey its appreciation for the support the relevant government agencies, private sector representatives participating in this workshop and is encouraging them to actively engage and support Vanuatu’s Graduation process. (PACNEWS)