FTMM introductory remarks by DSG Peter Forau
22 July, 2008

Edgewater Resort, Rarotonga, Cook Islands


by Mr Peter Forau
Deputy Secretary General
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Madam Vice-President of Kiribati, Deputy Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Honourable Ministers, Senior Forum Trade Officials, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Mr Greg Urwin, I extend a very warm welcome to all of you to this year’s Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM). Many of you who have been participating in past FTMMs, may remember that this is the first time Mr Urwin has missed an FTMM. Sadly he is unwell and unable to travel, but he sends his very best for the meeting. I’m sure there is a lot of space in your hearts to wish him well and a speedy recovery. Can I also make the point that we are grateful that despite limited funding a good number of countries are able to attend the meeting, obviously demonstrating your commitment to trade development in the region?

In fact it is hardly surprising that given the circumstances Ministers are able to meet at all this year. For quite apart from your commitments to regional trade development, the knowledge of having the meeting in this beautiful country, I’m sure must have played a role in your decisions, to make the trip.

I suppose it’s only human nature that we seek beauty. For that is what the Cook Islands are, the most beautiful islands in the South Pacific. In keeping with our usual way, it falls on me to extend to the Government and people of the Cook Islands our profound gratitude for agreeing to host this year’s FTMM. We will ensure everyone leaves by end of the week but I think no one will be surprised if some people are still around next week.

Since 2003 the FTMM has met annually and in recent years the agenda had become monotonous and contained the same issues. This has raised questions about the value of the FTMMs because it is felt the agenda has become unresponsive to emerging needs of Forum members. It is not our role to pass judgement on the merits of Ministerial Meeting’s so we won’t attempt one in light of the question that are emerging. What we can share though is our view that the priorities of the region on trade have not changed because we are still in the business of implementing the necessary strategies in pursuit of these priorities. In other words, they are still work-in-progress. In some cases, lack of funding requires that those approved priorities which are still on-hold must be brought back to Ministers to refresh the mandate or for redirections. This is why the FTMM agenda seems to be the same every year. On the other hand, it is important that the region consolidates the in-roads made with those priorities we have implemented in terms of deciding next steps. Again this tends to influence the agenda of the FTMM.

Consequently, I fear that your meeting this year contains a consolidated version of the agenda you had last year. Before you are updates on the Forum WTO Office, IPR and TK, RTFP, and PACER development as well as recommendations for funding and ways forward. Generally trade development is an important priority in the Pacific Plan as an initiative for regional integration. Increased trade and economic integration is central to the Pacific Plan. The integration of the region’s economies presents significant opportunities to raise living standards for all Forum Members. The continuing focus on trade and economic integration has been evident with both economic and trade ministers respectively continuing to work on ways to achieve success in these areas noting the importance of, for instance, labour mobility. Challenges however remain, among them the slow pace at which regional trade agreements are being implemented. A continued focus on trade and economic integration is required to underwrite the desire to strengthen the region’s economic growth and with it the improved livelihoods of the region’s people.

At the officials meeting yesterday, there was useful discussions on these issues and on hindsight it does appear these issues are still relevant. On that note I’m confident the Ministers will, as usual, afford genuine consideration to the recommendations of the officials. We wish you well in your considerations.

Thank You 

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