19 Dec 2005

Tonga Government goes on attack over criticism of its joining the World Trade Organisation

5:53 pm on 19 December 2005

The Tonga Government has hit back at claims by the NGO Oxfam that joining the World Trade Organisation could bring great hardship to the country.

Oxfam says Tonga was placed under enormous pressure to make concessions that other members of the WTO had not had to make.

It says forcing Tonga to cut its tariffs more severely than all bar one other country is very unfair and will imperil Tonga's ability to provide for its poor.

It says Tonga has been ganged up on by the rich and powerful, putting the country's future at risk.

But in a press release the Government calls the claims outrageously false and nasty.

It says, after ten years of negotiation, the government concluded joining the WTO is the best course of action and that Tonga needs to have a voice within the multilateral trading system.

It says reducing the tariff rates to 15 or 20 percent will make vital imports more affordable for the people, and reduce losses through customs scams.

The Government also says joining the WTO makes the country more attractive to foreign investors but that doesn't mean it has made too many concessions.

It says any foreign investor still has to comply with Tonga law and show that their investment would be good for Tonga.