Remarks by DSG Peter Forau at FTOM, Samoa.


11 – 12 June 2009
Apia, Samoa

Honourable Minister Keil
Aiono Mose Su’a, CEO of the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Samoa
Auelua Samuela Enari, CEO Ministry of Commerce and Labour
Senior Government Officials
Distinguished Delegates
Distinguished Observers and Consultants
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, I’m pleased to join Minister Keil in extending a warm welcome to you all to Apia and to also thank you all for making the effort to attend the 2009 Forum Trade Officials Meeting. The fact that we are able to meet at this time and in this beautiful country is due largely to the kind support of the Government of Samoa and on all our behalf I wish to extend our collective profound gratitude to them for this exceptional assistance. I’m sure during our stay here in Apia we will in our own little way return this favour.

2. We are meeting again at a time when the global economy is in recession and where in most countries, particularly the developed, classical economic policies that go against the fundamentals of capitalism are being applied. Government intervention long regarded as antithetical to economic development has become the norm, in most cases, these interventions, costing billions of dollars, have been bankrolled through debt, again begging questions on the long held wisdom against deficit financing. Unfortunately small island economies like ours do not have the same opportunities for maneuver and we are unable to respond as quickly and as adequately to the global crisis. Already vulnerable because of our size and isolation, there is a particular responsibility for our Governments to be smarter and economically responsible. Fortunately for all of us, the good old subsistence farming still promise much for our small countries.

3. At times like these, the rise of protectionism would appear to be inevitable as countries resort to setting up barriers to international trade. We hear that the DDA negotiations have stalled again and the priority now seems to be on monitoring protectionism. It would appear to be necessary that the rules on subsidies may have to be sidelined as almost every countries are now extending subsidies to both private and public enterprises. This demonstrate clearly just how important national interests are and faced with situations like this, protecting the livelihoods of our citizens is more important.

4. However we must not discount the importance of trade. For small countries like ours intra-regional and indeed international trade is very important and promises so much for our future prosperity. Therefore our commitments to pursuing trade development in our region should not suffer because of the need to advocate safe guard measures. I believe we can do this simultaneously by formulating a mix of sensible policies that fuses regional and national policies. We must continue our trade negotiations but learn from the lessons emerging from the crisis. Therefore the call of our leaders for advancing regional discussions on PACER Plus for example is an instruction that is visionary because it promises that our region benefits from wider regional trade as we continue to seek opportunities to support our future economic prosperity. That said there is a responsibility for all our trade officials to ensure that the opportunities available for special and differential treatment are available to our disadvantaged members.

5. At this time too our presence in the WTO system is crucial because we need to follow the current discussions on where the DDA is heading. Hence the importance of ensuring the Forum WTO Office is functioning. The issue of funding for the office has been on our agenda for some time and we need to resolve this matter as soon as possible. Hopefully at this meeting we will make good on our commitments to the office.

6. I hope also that the meeting will lend support to the Aid for Trade initiatives that are being tabled. Empirical evidence shows that this region is edging on becoming an “aid for trade orphan” as aid for trade flows to Forum Island Countries have been so negligible compared to Africa and Asia. This glaring record even compares so unfavourably on a per capita basis. I think the proposal is not unreasonable as we need to start correcting this unfortunate situation.

7. Finally Honourable Minister, ladies and gentleman, the matter of TK is a priority for Forum Island Countries and the meeting is asked to lend attention to this matter given that the Action Plan which is currently being implemented only benefits 6 countries and we need resources to respond to the requests to expand this assistance to more FICS. We will also consider a proposal for the establishment of a metrology testing center.

8. Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, may I once again thank the Government of Samoa for kindly hosting these meetings and wish the forum trade officials best wishes for the meeting.

Thank you very much for listening.