Foreign Office responds to Foreign Affairs Committee report
- Three months ago the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee
issued a preliminary report on the Overseas Territories. The first
paragraph below is what they said about Tristan.
Below that is the response of, for all practical purposes, the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office (but submitted in the name of their
responsible Minister) which was just released this afternoon.
This will now lead to further testimony and discussion, following
which the Committee will issue recommendations. While they lack the
force of law, the Committee is quite influential.
The entire 42 page report, for those interested in other OTs, is at:
36. We welcome the Government's swift provision of emergency assistance to
Tristan da Cunha following harbour damage and an outbreak of illness
on the Island. We recommend that the Government continues to provide
funding for projects on Tristan da Cunha, focusing on projects that will
promote greater self-sufficiency. We also recommend that the FCO makes
representations to China to try to open UK-China trade agreements to the
sale of Tristan lobster.
109. The Government agrees with the Committee's recommendation that it
provide funding for projects focusing on promoting Tristan da Cunha's
self-sufficiency. A review of Tristan da Cunha Government's budget
and economic diversification in 2008, funded by DFID, highlighted a
number of key areas which the FCO and DFID are working closely with
the island community to address, with the aim of maintaining the
island's long-term self-sufficiency.
110. Following the Administrator's austerity measures, introduced on
the island in June 2008 to increase the Tristan da Cunha Government's
income, the Government is funding a number of projects and government
positions in line with the review's recommendations. DFID agreed to
fund two expatriate Tristan da Cunha Government employees a Director
of Education and a Director of Public Works. The FCO has agreed
funding for the National School of Government to visit the island and
investigate possible public sector reform. There are also plans for an
FCO-funded consultant to work with the island community to produce a
Sustainable Development Plan. The aim of the Plan will be to provide
the Tristan da Cunha Government with a clear path for the island's
future and ensure the changes Tristan and the UK introduce are
sustainable. DFID-funded rehabilitation work on Calshot Harbour is due
to continue in January 2009, building on the excellent work that the
MOD Joint Task Force completed in March 2008.
111. We note the Committee's recommendation that the FCO makes
representations to China to try to open up UK-China trade agreements
to the sale of Tristan lobster. We recognise that the development of
Tristan da Cunha's fisheries is essential to the island's development
and the FCO is working with a number of agencies and bodies including
the Tristan da Cunha Government, St Helena Government, the European
Commission and Ovenstone Agencies to gain accreditation for Tristan
lobster to be exported to EU markets. DFID have furthermore agreed to
fund hygiene training to help with the process of getting Tristan's
laboratory certified to EU standards.
112. Tristan da Cunha is not covered by the UK/EU's membership of the
World Trade Organisation. As a result it does not benefit from the
Most Favoured Nation tariff treatment accorded by China to trade from
the UK/EU. Whilst it would be possible in principle for the UK to
negotiate a bilateral preferential trade agreement with China on
behalf of Tristan da Cunha, it is difficult to see what Tristan da
Cunha could offer the Chinese in exchange for improved market access
for its lobsters. For this reason, the Government judges that it
would be more advantageous in the first instance to work with the
Tristan da Cunha, St. Helena and European authorities to secure
improved market access for Tristan da Cunha lobsters in the EU.