Opening Remarks, AgSG Teo, Workshop on Economic Regulation

Monday 25 August
Novotel Nadi, Fiji Islands

Distinguished delegates, Resource persons, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning, ni sa yadra and namaste!


I am pleased to make brief opening remarks on the series of Workshops on Economic Regulation and the Workshops on Fiscal and Financial Sector Reform organised by the Secretariat in response to specific mandates by Forum Economic and Trade Ministers.

2. At the outset, may I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to delegates from the region, as well as resource persons here today, and those joining us later this week.


3. Having said that, distinguished delegates, you do have a challenging week ahead of you. I am sure you all realise that having had a look at the workshop agendas, two workshops will be held over the course of the week and each will have its own set of issues, expectations and challenges.

4. The first workshop, on economic regulation, builds on the decisions of previous meetings of the Forum Economic Ministers on economic regulation in the areas of competition, pricing and access and fair trading and consumer protection. The workshop is geared towards facilitating the exchange of regulatory knowledge and good experiences, and exploring and creating awareness of regional regulatory priorities and initiatives, in order to promote good regulatory practices in Forum Island Countries.

5. The objective of the first day of this workshop will be to examine economic regulation in the context of wider structural reform, to revisit past FEMM considerations, and importantly, to consider national level developments, challenges and constraints through country presentations which you will be delivering.

6. The second and third days of the workshop will focus, more specifically, on highlighting national and regional regulatory priorities, and initiatives in response, that FICs could consider in their efforts to improve regulatory outcomes. These sessions will also consider specific presentations by the Secretariat staff, Asian Development Bank representative, and a World Bank consultant.

7. In 2006, we held a similar workshop to consider country experiences in economic regulation policy, and provide guidance to FICs in improving regulatory outcomes at the national level. The workshop also explored ways forward with regard to the type of support that could be provided at the regional level, to complement national policies and priorities. That workshop reinforced the findings of the 2006 FEMM benchmark study, in particular, that the greatest potential for enhancement of economic regulation is at the level of regional provision of services, mainly in terms of technical support for regulators and countries that choose to participate.

8. The workshop did reiterate FEMM’s acknowledgement that the extent of support required will vary from country to country, and it is desirable that there be flexibility in the way and the level at which the support is provided. At the same time, there has been recognition that a number of issues and challenges are common to FICs, and common strategies and approaches can be developed. In this context, Economic Ministers at their meeting last year identified the need for a phased implementation of regional approaches through:

• firstly, a policy phase where the relevant policy objectives are identified and adopted;
• secondly, a development of legislation phase which considers the appropriate type of laws to implement; and
• finally, an implementation phase, where legislation is enacted and regulation enforced.

9. Quite clearly, a lot of discussions have taken place, and material prepared, which I am sure you will thoroughly consider in the course of the workshop.

10. The second workshop on fiscal and financial sector reforms has two main objectives. The first is to disseminate the findings of the study on ‘Revenue Consequences of Trade Reform’, which examined the levels of revenue impact which each FIC can expect to face when implementing trade related reforms. The workshop will also cover recommendations from the report for each country on how to address any revenue impact. The country presentations will help to identify the best way of taking these recommendations forward.

11. The other key objective of the second workshop is to disseminate information regarding the Secretariat’s FEMM mandated work on Offshore Financial Centres, and financial sector supervision, and discuss next steps. Following the presentation of a paper on ‘Financial Sector Reform, Financial Sector Supervision and Regulation in Forum Island Countries’, which you should also have access to, the 2007 FEMM mandated us, in collaboration with the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC), to undertake further work to strengthen financial sector supervision, by developing specific proposals for regional mechanisms to facilitate better regulation and supervision of financial sectors in FICs. The work done so far on developing these proposals will be outlined at the workshop, and we wish to seek member comments regarding next steps in this process.

12. Concerns were raised at the last FEMM by some Forum Island Countries with Offshore Finance Centers, in relation to legislation and other measures being proposed by some OECD countries which, if enacted could result in the possible closure of the these Offshore Finance Centers. As such, Ministers directed the Secretariat to collaborate with the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre (PFTAC) to assess the impacts of the proposed measures, in consultation with the FICs concerned. The workshop provides the opportunity for the Secretariat to provide information on how this FEMM-mandated work is being taken forward, and discuss the options available to address the issues that have been raised from the consultancy study findings to-date, in relation to offshore finance centres.

Concluding Remarks

13. Distinguished delegates, as I have said, there is an intense and challenging week ahead of you, and I know you are all keen to begin that journey.

14. I thank you for bearing with me, and I wish you all a successful week of deliberations.

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