Tonga's economy is characterized by a large non-monetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country's population who live abroad (chiefly in Australia, New Zealand and the United States).
The manufacturing sector of Tonga consists of handicrafts and a few other very small scale industries, which contribute only about 3% of GDP. Commercial business activities also are inconspicuous and, to a large extent, are dominated by the same large trading companies found throughout the South Pacific. In September 1974, the country's first commercial trading bank, the Bank of Tonga, opened.
Tonga's development plans emphasize a growing private sector, upgrading agricultural productivity, revitalizing the squash and vanilla bean industries, developing tourism, and improving communications and transport. Substantial progress has been made, but much work remains to be done.
The country became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2007. The Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI), incorporated in 1996, endeavors to represent the interests of its members, private sector businesses, and to promote economic growth in the Kingdom.
The top export partners of Tonga are New Zealand, South Korea, the United States, Japan and Australia.
Tonga has a small, open, island economy and is the last constitutional monarchy among the Pacific Island countries. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops. Agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from overseas Tongans to offset its trade deficit.
A former British protectorate, Tonga became fully independent in 1970, though it was never formally colonized.
Tonga has no strategic or mineral resources and relies on agriculture, fishing and the money sent home by Tongans living abroad, many of them in New Zealand. Unemployment is high, particularly among the young. Endowed with tropical beaches, rain forest and active volcanoes, it has a developing tourist industry - its main source of hard currency.
The top import partners of Tonga are Fiji, New Zealand, China, the United States and Hong Kong.
Tonga Customs Contacts
Address: Queens Salote Ex-Students Center, Railway Rd, PO Box 7, Nuku’alofa
Telephone: +676 23 444
Fax: +676 26 638
Tonga is a Polynesian country and archipelago comprising 169 islands. The country is surrounded by Fiji, Wallis, Futuna (France), Samoa, Niue, Kermadec, New Caledonia (France) and Vanuatu. Tonga is a member of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), World Customs Organization (WCO), World Trade Organization and other international organizations.
Tonga has bound its entire customs tariff with relatively minor differences in the average bound rates on agricultural and non-agricultural products (WTO definition), as the tariff lines are bound at ad valorem rates of either 15% or 20%. Tonga does not participate in the plurilateral Information Technology Agreement, the Agreement on Trade in Civil Aircraft, or any of the sectoral initiatives.
Import prohibitions, restrictions, and licensing
Most items can be imported into Tonga without any restriction (other than import duty, taxes, and charges). However, Tonga prohibits certain imports, and the importation of some items is restricted and requires a special licence. Tonga applies non-automatic licensing to firearms, explosives, and noxious gases.
Export procedures and requirements
Exporters are required to hold a valid business licence. A foreign investor must obtain a foreign investment certificate before the business licence can be issued. Domestic and foreign investors are generally treated alike as exporters. The only activity reserved for Tongan investors is the exportation of green and mature coconuts.
All commercial exports of goods from Tonga must be declared to Tonga Customs before loading. Certificates of origin are required for exports of squash to Japan.
The Tonga's Customs Tariff has one column reserved for duty on exports. However, all exported goods are currently zero-rated. Excise tax is not levied on exported goods. For businesses registered for Consumption Tax, the tax is not levied on exports of goods or services. Exported goods are subject to an inspection fee of T$20 and a processing fee of T$2 per customs declaration form.
Documents to export and import