Solomon Islands has entered into an Interim Economic Partnership Agreement by a number of Pacific Island Countries with the United Kingdom, which has come into effect on 1 January 2021.
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 Papua New Guinea (since 2009), Fiji (since 2014) and Samoa (since 2019).
The United Kingdom in its withdrawal from the European Union had undergone a transitional period which ended on 31 December 2020.
To maintain preferential market access as per the European Union EPA’s, a United Kingdom and Pacific State Interim Economic Partnership Agreement was replicated setting the basis for economic and trade relations.
Through the UK-Pacific Interim EPA, Solomon Islands will continue to have duty-free, quota free access for goods exported. To comply with World Trade Organization compatibility, Solomon Islands has also committed to a gradual tariff liberalization of certain goods.
The UK – Pacific Interim EPA is a replicate of the EU – Pacific Interim EPA, and includes duplication of time bound commitments currently being implemented as well as access to derogations on customs duty applications on exports and global sourcing, of which Solomon Islands stands to gain most whereby processed fish can be exported duty free to the United Kingdom even if sourced from foreign vessels.
Solomon Islands accession to the UK – Pacific iEPA is critical given the end of the United Kingdom’s transitional period in withdrawing from the European Union lapses 31 December 2020.
Solomon Islands work towards accession onto the UK-Pacific iEPA included providing of information on developments to line ministries, private sector and civil society through the National Trade Development Council. Following Cabinet approval for Solomon Islands accession, an instrument of accession had been deposited by Solomon Islands on 2 December 2020.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Solomon Islands in applying the effects of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement was signed on 22 December 2020.
The Interim EPA’s while currently only covering goods, sets the foundation for potential expanded economic and trade relations.
Sustainable development is an integral part of Solomon Islands accession in not only maintaining preferential access for goods exported but also fulfilling a general commitment to improve livelihoods through the gradual integration of Pacific States into the world economy.