Tongan Minister for Trade and Economic Development of Tonga Viliami Uasike Latu, has highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by Tonga, including the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai undersea volcanic eruption and tsunami.

In his statement at the WTO13th Ministerial Conference(MC13) in Abu Dhabi, Tonga aligned itself with the Pacific Group, the Organisation of African Caribbean and Pacific States, and the Small and Vulnerable Economies Group.

He emphasised the grave threat of climate change to the nation’s economy and existence. Tonga is actively engaged in resilience-building and economic recovery, relying heavily on donors and external support, which hinders development for small island developing states.

Latu acknowledged the importance of fisheries for livelihood, economic development, and food security in the Pacific region.

Tonga urged the expedited ratification of the Fisheries Subsidies Agreement to address overcapacity and overfishing, with a call for special treatment for developing countries not responsible for these issues.

The Minister expressed concerns about the impact of global crises on Tonga’s agriculture sector and stressed the need for agricultural trade reform that considers the food security concerns of developing countries. Tonga also supported efforts to address the specific challenges of small vulnerable economies.
Regarding e-commerce, Tonga advocated for reducing the digital divide and extending the moratorium on custom duties for electronic transmissions for developing countries.

Latu emphasised the importance of WTO reform and the need to address the concerns of developing countries and least developed countries, especially in dispute settlement.

Latu thanked the WTO Secretariat, Commonwealth Secretariat, and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for supporting Tonga’s engagement in the WTO.

He hopes that the conference would yield positive results to mitigate the challenges faced by small developing island states like Tonga in the face of geopolitical tensions, environmental issues, health crises, and economic challenges.

The Minister called for concrete and positive outcomes to address the pressing concerns of the nation.