News Release

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Honiara, Solomon Islands October 14, 2007

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian had a fruitful bilateral talk late yesterday evening reaffirming their commitment to both existing and proposed cooperation programs between their two countries including a free trade agreement.

The existing cooperation programs are on health, education agriculture, security, environment and culture whilst the proposed programs will be on trade investment and labor mobility and a volunteer service scheme.

A framework agreement was signed earlier this year and one of the terms was for a joint consultative meeting between the two foreign ministers of Solomon Islands and Taiwan to review the cooperation programs.

Speaking after the bilateral talk, Prime Minister Sogavare said he was happy with the outcome of his meeting with President Chen the Solomon Islands embassy would follow up on the issues they discussed.

Mr. Sogavare said one of the major issues they deliberated on was a proposed free trade agreement between Solomon Islands and Taiwan which the Solomon Islands cabinet had approved a week leading up to the 2nd Taiwan-Pacific Islands Allies summit.

He said Taipei had already agreed in principle to the proposal and the next step was for both parties to set a time frame for negotiation of the terms and conditions for an agreement.

The Prime Minister said another major issue discussed was the Solomon Islands government’s proposal for the introduction of free basic education for Solomon Islands.

He said the Solomon Islands government had requested Taiwan to fund the free basic education program at an annual rate of $3-million until such time when the government was financially capable to take on that responsibility.

Mr. Sogavare said Taiwan had taken aboard the request for consideration and the responsible Solomon Islands officials will follow up that proposal with Taipei through the Taiwanese Embassy in Honiara.

He said the volunteer service scheme would see the deployment of Taiwanese volunteer service personnel in Solomon Islands hopefully next year.

Mr. Sogavare said the agreement on the labor scheme would hopefully be signed before the end of this year.

He said once the agreement was signed, the Solomon Islands government would proceed into negotiating for employment for Solomon Islanders in skilled jobs with potential Taiwanese employers.

The Prime Minister said it was important that the labor agreement must cover health insurance for the welfare of Solomon Islanders employed under the scheme.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his delegation will depart for Taipei today with the Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for a two day visit before returning to Solomon Islands.

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