Tonga to seek WTO’s help to develop fishing industry

Tonga will ask larger countries at next week’s World Trade Organisation meeting in Buenos Aires to help build the fishing industry in the kingdom.

They will also ask countries which fish in Tongan waters to pay increased fees.

Ministry of Labour and Commerce CEO Edgar Cocker said higher fees would help Tonga’s economy.

“There are rich countries which have refused to do this, but I will lobby them to try to change their minds,” Cocker said.

Tonga’s balance of trade needed change for the good of the economy and the country needed to boost exports in 2018.

Minister of Labour and Commerce Dr Pohiva Tu’ionetoa and Cocker will attend the WTO Trade Ministerial meeting in Argentina.

Cocker said he would also try persuade the WTO to ease international quarantine policies to make it commercially viable for Tonga to export fish to Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

He said Tonga would also ask for help in developing an industry to extract vanilla essence which could be sold to international suppliers for more than $1000 per kilo.

At the moment growers in Vava’u were getting S1000 per kilo for dried vanilla.

Tonga was also seeking help from Thailand to develop shrimp farming in Popua.

According to the Tonga Fisheries Sector Plan 2016-24, Tonga is heavily dependent on its fisheries and ocean resources for food, transport, economic development and culture.

The report said Tonga’s economy as characterised by a lack of economies of scale due to its small size, costly market access due to its distance from markets, a weak manufacturing base and limited labour pool.