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Remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at FTMM in FSM

FORUM TRADE MINISTERS MEETING (FTMM)

29-30 April 2010
Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS

by

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Secretary General
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia, Honourable Alik Alik,
The Governor of the State of Pohnpei, Honourable John Esha
Distinguished Members of the Congress and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia
Madam Vice President of Kiribati
Hon Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa
Honourable Ministers
Senior Officials of the region
Ladies and Gentlemen

Honourable Governor of the State of Pohnpei, thank you for your warm welcome and may I, on behalf of the delegates, say that we are indeed glad to be in Pohnpei and are greatly honoured by your presence here this morning.
 

 

2. May I take this opportunity to express to you, Sir, and to the Government of Federated States of Micronesia through His Excellency the Vice-President, the deep appreciation of the Forum Secretariat and Member Countries for your hosting these two very important regional trade meetings of Forum Trade Ministers and of Senior Officials.
 

3. Honourable Ministers, the Pacific region is currently undergoing an important transition as it recovers from the global economic crisis and moves towards increased involvement in global trade. Trade is a crucial component of regional economic integration. Forum Leaders have long recognised economic integration as a priority and it has been one of the most important standing items on our Leaders’ agenda.
 

4. One of the four pillars of the Pacific Plan adopted by Forum Leaders in 2005 is “Economic Growth.” Economic growth can improve conditions for our people by expanding access to markets for goods and services and labour, thereby creating jobs, enhancing growth, raising standards of living and contributing to sustainable economic development. The Pacific Plan, as a whole, proposes innovative approaches, through a framework of enhanced regional cooperation and integration, to meet the unique challenges that Pacific Island Countries face.
 

5. We are now in the fifth year of the Plan’s implementation, and we shall be reporting on progress in implementing it at this year’s Leaders’ Meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Bearing in mind the ambitious nature of the tasks, there are now encouraging signs that some of the Plan’s priorities are being embedded in the planning strategies of our Member Countries. There is still a long way to go, but the ultimate goal – that is, better service to the people of the region through regional cooperation - makes it all worthwhile and, indeed, essential. I hope that we will be able to report to the Leaders, at their meeting in August, significant progress on trade-related work.
 

6. This meeting of Trade Ministers is of critical importance to our regional economies and to future integration. This meeting provides Ministers with an opportunity to advance the PACER Plus negotiations by providing direction on the timing of future meetings and issues for further consideration. The necessary issue of national consultations by Forum Island Countries remains outstanding. These consultations are an integral and vital part of preparations for PACER Plus negotiations. But we need to establish balance and find rational accommodation between national preparations and the progression of agreed regional endeavours. National consultations and the enhancement of capacities are never-ending and must remain ongoing activities. They cannot hinder and become, or be seen as, an impediment to progress.
 

7. The Chief Trade Adviser has commenced work in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and earlier this month, PACER Plus Officials met to engage in detailed discussions on priority matters, in accordance with your direction from the Special Forum Trade Ministers’ Meeting on PACER Plus in Brisbane in October 2009. Your further direction is now required to move ahead with negotiations. Your further direction is also necessary to clarify key issues such as when negotiation meetings will take place, what outcomes are expected from these meetings, and what support is required to ensure Forum Island Countries’ full participation. All are important matters of policy and guidance which must be established by Ministers before we leave this hall.
 

8. May I turn your attention briefly to the other items on the agenda. The Secretariat has provided for your consideration an overview of trade-related activities undertaken by the Economic Governance Programme, and you will discuss a range of capacity building initiatives both current and planned. In recent years we have worked to advance capacity building needs, but I think we need to do more and we need to do so with increased intensity.
 

9. There is also need to assist the Private Sector in the region to become efficient so that it is able to compete in the global market. The Secretariat wishes to take a much more structured and proactive approach through strengthened Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissions, especially in Sydney and Auckland, and thereby creating more business opportunities for the private sector in Forum Island Countries and to assist their integration into the global market.
 

10. Further, we all recognise that World Trade Organization rules have a profound effect on Pacific economies, whether Forum Island Countries are WTO Members or not. Therefore, securing funds for the operations of the Forum’s WTO Office in Geneva is essential. The Forum’s Geneva Office has been in operation for six years through funding provided by the European Union, and it is highly valued by FIC WTO Members and Observers. At this meeting, I have to ask you to consider and endorse measures to demonstrate effective ownership by FICs and to ensure the long-term funding and sustainability of this Office. If definitive action is not taken today, we would face the prospect of having to consider closing the Geneva office by the end of this year.
 

11. Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, I have outlined the various issues for your consideration in the next day or two. All are matters of substance and of importance for the region, and will require your guidance and policy direction.
 

12. I end as I started: with gratitude to renew to the Vice President, to the Governor and to the Federated States of Micronesia our appreciation for the care and courtesies extended to us all. I want to thank Honourable Ministers and heads of delegation for your attendance, and to acknowledge the essential preparatory work of Senior Trade Officials. It is necessary for all the countries of our region to find a place, a decent place, in the global trading environment. Your work here, today, will post the way, and I wish you well with it.

 

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