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2012 FTMM: Secretary General's Introductory Remarks

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE
PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT, TUILOMA NERONI SLADE

2012 FORUM TRADE MINISTERS’ MEETING
Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands
11 May 2012

Excellency President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands,
Hon Christopher Jorebon Loeak
Honourable Trade Ministers
Honourable Speaker/Members of Parliament
Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Trade Officials
Head of the Oceania Customs Organisation, Mr Kulu Bloomfield
Chief Trade Adviser to Forum Island Countries, Dr Edwini Kessie
Representatives of Marshall Islands Communities, Private Sector
and Non-State Actors

Mr President

It is a privilege, always, to be in your country. On behalf of Honourable Ministers, officials and advisers and all of us participating in this important Forum Trade Ministers meeting, may I thank your Excellency and the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for receiving us all so warmly and so generously.

2. For us all, I thank you Sir, for your kind words of welcome and extend to you and your Government our admiration/congratulations on Marshall Islands’ first Trade Policy Framework just announced. It seems very clear that this is a most important and significant development for your country and more so for its outreach implications for other Forum countries. We thank you in particular for your presidential urging for greater vigour and faster-paced effort for regional economic integration.

3. These Forum gatherings, especially at this high-level, are essential in connecting Forum countries and communities in the conduct of the business of the region, and more so in the face to face opportunity for personal and professional inter-actions among the leadership of the region. Were there many more of such opportunities! But the expanse of our ocean and the distances of our homes remain challenges, and we know that with the time we have in Majuro we need carefully to husband our proceedings and efforts in order to maximise the opportunity available to Hon Ministers.

4. In that respect, Hon Ministers, I want to acknowledge and commend to you the excellent work of Senior Trade Officials who have been toiling over the last two days to deliver to you, for your consideration and policy decisions, proposed means for pressing forward on a wide range of trade-related issues affecting our region.

5. Pacific countries face significant challenges to trade development and increasing trade activity, and we all know the reasons: remoteness of communities, smallness of economies and distance from major markets, the major constraints among them. The time and cost and complexity of travel, to almost any Forum island capital, as we will all have experienced in the past few days, are the realities of our region. These are factors well recognised in the Pacific Plan adopted by Leaders in 2005, as well as the need for comprehensive and practical strategies and solutions to enhance coordination and efforts for regional cooperation and integration to raise the living standards of all Pacific people.

6. If I may, I should like, first, to draw the attention of Hon Ministers to the economic growth pillar of the Pacific Plan which seeks to increase sustainable trade (including services) and investment. Inherently, it is about improving efficiency and effectiveness of infrastructure development and associated service delivery; and increased private sector participation in, and contribution to, development. These are all matters within your province; and Hon Ministers will recall that at their meeting in Auckland last September, Forum Leaders had laid emphasis on sustainable economic development with detailed policy directions as set out in the Leaders Waiheke Declaration. The key areas of trade development are featured in the agenda for your meeting and as priorities for your consideration and action.

7. This meeting of Trade Ministers provides an important opportunity to make firm commitments towards advancing priority trade negotiations such as PACER Plus. Since the launch of the PACER Plus negotiations in August 2009, there have been four gatherings of Forum officials, most recently in March 2012 in Brisbane. Progress made so far gives optimism that engagement in PACER Plus negotiations could be intensified. While we need to continue with focused discussions on common priority issues such as the rules of origin (ROOs), customs procedures, regional labour mobility and also related development assistance, engagement in additional common priorities, such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical regulations, standards and conformance assessment procedures, would also be necessary to advance the negotiations.

8. It is fundamental that we ensure an effective and inclusive approach to the development of the trade agenda in the region. Ongoing dialogue with the Non-State Actors on the current trade negotiations and in the implementation of trade agreements are crucial engagements that we need to support at the national, as well as at the regional level.

9. Similarly, Forum Leaders have recognised the important role of the private sector in the region’s economic development. At their meeting last year, which I have noted, the statement presented from the Private Sector Dialogue underscored the need for the engagement and for the voice of the private sector to be heard in the development of government policy. This, too, is an aspect of importance in the issues for consideration by Hon Ministers

10. Ministers, you will be provided with an update on the various activities of the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest offices located in Auckland, Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo. These offices continue to play a central role in attracting investment to the region, especially to the smaller island economies, while also providing needed technical support for the development of export markets. Consistent with the call made at the Private Sector Dialogue in 2011, the capacities of the Pacific Trade & Invest offices have been enhanced to enable them to work with the private sector to increase opportunities for networking, mentoring and information sharing. The Pacific Trade & Invest network, while being an integral part of the Forum Secretariat has been structured in a manner that allows them to interact directly with the private sector in the region and promptly to respond to their needs. I would very strongly encourage Forum Member countries to make use of the Pacific Trade & Invest network to reach out to lucrative export and investment markets and opportunities.

11. As noted in the papers before you, we have the Pacific Islands Forum representative office to the World Trade Organization in Geneva which remains an important conduit for supporting the interests of Forum Island Countries to the WTO. Let me say that it is near impossible to have such an important functioning office to serve Forum island country needs at the WTO in Geneva without the very kind support of our development partners, especially the generous contribution from Australia. May I also take this opportunity to congratulate Samoa and Vanuatu for completing their accession processes leading to their membership to WTO.

Mr President,

12. Just a week ago on the commemoration of Marshall Islands 33rd Constitution Day, you reminded your Nation about "Tilmen/Tilem Eowoj" which translates as one having the “tools and resources to undertake a great endeavor." While your theme was of nation building for the Republic, Mr President, I believe the essence of your words apply equally to the work and responsibility that lies with this meeting today. And so, in the spirit of “Tilem Eowoj” may I say to Honourable Ministers that you have before you a comprehensive set of substantive trade issues and that your consideration will be of the utmost consequence for our region.

13. I know that you are possessed of the tools and resources for this responsible task, and I wish you the most cordial and fruitful deliberations and from your meeting a clear contribution to the Vision of Forum Leaders for dynamic and prosperous Pacific economies for all their communities.

Thank You.
 

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