Address by SG at 4th Pacific Islands Trade Exhibition, Japan
Address by Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

4th Pacific Islands Trade Exhibition
21 – 25 May 2009, Tokyo, Japan

Your Excellencies, Leaders of Pacific Island Countries;
Hon Yoshiro Mori, Member of the House of Representatives and Former Prime Minister of Japan;
Mr Yasuo Hayashi, Chairman of Japan External Trade Organization;
Exhibitors from the Forum Island Countries;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is delighted to be associated with this the 4th Pacific Islands Trade Exhibition in Tokyo, and I want to add voice to the welcome that Mr Hayashi has extended to you all. The Forum’s operations through the Pacific Islands Centre (PIC) and its collaboration with the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) highlight the importance and value of good and committed partnerships.

These partnerships have been developed, and tested, both regionally and bilaterally, over many years. Today, they underpin the strong and friendly relations between Japan and Forum Island Countries (FICs), and which I believe frame Japanese investments and development programmes in the region.

Trade and investments, and more broadly economic growth, must be the drivers for the region’s development. The Pacific as a region stands to gain much should it be able to capitalise on emerging opportunities that are presented by the opening up of markets to trade in goods and services. To this end, the specific trade initiatives in the Pacific Plan focus on such opportunities.

In these difficult times of the global financial crisis it is encouraging to see the staying power of Japan’s investment engagement in the region with, for example, Nippon Oil Exploration Limited and Kosumo Oil Company’s investments in Papua New Guinea, as well as Sumitomo Metal’s involvement in the proposed nickel project in the Solomon Islands. These are major projects, and just a few of Japan’s substantial investment portfolio that extends throughout the Forum region.

As it is, there are already a significant line of FIC exports to Japan: noni Juice from Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti; timber from Papua New Guinea; fresh fish (tuna) from most Forum Island Countries; coffee and vanilla from Papua New Guinea; black pearls from Tahiti and Fiji; fresh beef from Vanuatu; and salt and other marine products from Kiribati. I note with appreciation the singularly valuable role the PIC has played in all this.

Recent statistics indicate that trade has continued to grow strongly, with exports from the FICs to Japan doubling over the last ten years to nearly US$100 million, and exports from Japan to the FICs increasing in similar manner.

The varying economies of scales across the FICs have a direct bearing on the region’s ability to trade with Japan. In a sophisticated market, such as Japan’s, the key factors for success include quality of service, quality of product, and being able to meet the changing demands of the market. In general terms, the reality on the part of FICs is the lack in range of exportable products, inconsistent supply and perhaps lack of understanding of Doing Business in Japan. The challenge for the FICs, and by extension the PIC, might be to develop niche products which target niche markets placed within industries such as health food, coffee, vanilla, cosmetics, aromathereapy etc. A small number of FICs have managed to overcome obstacles including international competitiveness, unfavorable tariffs, high transport costs, and are now experiencing good business through exports of fish, agricultural and marine products to Japan. I should think there still remains a fairly large number of FICs who have untapped potential.

This Exhibition is valuable in that it present opportunities to build the personal ties that determine a successful and long-term business relationship. We should not under-estimate the importance of this factor, for unless we can develop a good working relationship with our business clients, it is even harder to develop one with consumers in an overseas market.

JETRO has done an outstanding job in organising symposia and business seminars in the margins of the Exhibition in a bid to secure interest from the Japanese business community. My sources indicate that these sessions have attracted more numbers than anticipated and I take this to be a good and positive sign of things to come over the next four days.

The Forum Secretariat through its Trade Office in Japan, the PIC and in collaboration with JETRO will remain committed to facilitating access of FIC products into Japan. And before you all, I would like to recognise with deep appreciation the Centre’s Director, Mr Hasegawa and Deputy Director, Mr Shiramatsu and their staff, as I do Ms Glynis Miller of the Secretariat, for their tremendous efforts in successfully staging this Exhibition.

With these remarks may I wish the Pacific Islands Trade Exhibition every success.

Thank you.