Remarks by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at the PACP Officials' meeting

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Suva, Fiji
27 July 2012



Heads of Delegations and Excellencies
Distinguished Officials
Representatives of the CROP agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen

I have much pleasure in welcoming you to the Forum Secretariat Headquarters, and to the inaugural Pacific ACP Officials’ Meeting. The Pacific ACP Leaders at their meeting in 2011 reaffirmed the need for a Pacific ACP Officials’ Meeting prior to their annual meeting.

2. This meeting today is the first in the series of important preparatory meetings that will be held over the next week to prepare for the annual Leaders’ meeting in August, in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

3. You will note from the agenda that this one day meeting will traverse a range of subjects of great importance to the Pacific ACP Countries. They are issues of common interest to the Pacific ACP Membership, which we will have the opportunity to discuss collectively and provide appropriate recommendations to our Leaders.

4. The Pacific region has an important relationship with the European Union (EU), which has been forged through historical links over time. Cooperation between the EU and the Pacific members of the ACP grouping began in 1975 with the signing of the Georgetown Agreement. Under the EU-ACP framework, Pacific ACP States have benefited from a number of substantial financial programmes and technical assistance provided through the European Commission (EC) and the EU Member States.

5. We will have the opportunity at this meeting to discuss specific regional initiatives through which the Pacific’s relationship with the European Union and the ACP group can be strengthened.

6. The current focus of the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme on regional economic integration and the sustainable development of our natural resources and environment is helping the region identify specific ways in which we can build capacity in our islands, and overcome our isolation and vulnerabilities. The EU funding under the successive Pacific Regional Indicative Programmes has made significant contributions to the development of the region.

7. Trade and cooperation agreements are an integral part of the broader economic integration agenda. As we seek to further engage with Europe in the context of the Economic Partnership Agreement, our efforts towards regional integration should be intensified and accelerated. Initiatives such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) need to be pursued vigorously so that countries are able to undertake necessary reforms and adjustments and be better prepared to handle the pressures of a globalised economy.

8. The efforts of Forum Island Countries to broaden PICTA to include trade in services, and at a later stage temporary labour mobility, are steps in the right direction. Many of our smaller economies would benefit from the expected stimulation of investments and increase in services in identified sectors.

9. These regional agreements will better prepare our economies for engagement under the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, and also with respect to undertaking negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and other developed countries.

10. Trade not aid is a familiar refrain and in our interactions with development partners, we should seek to ensure improved arrangements to channel aid for the development of trade. These measures need to be strategic in nature with a clear expectation of sustainability. Your discussions on the refresh and renew process of the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy will be important in ensuring Forum Island Countries address and overcome constraints to increased international trade in goods and services.

11. Many of you here are familiar with these ongoing issues and like us in the Secretariat, wish for a quick and fruitful conclusion to these matters for the benefit of the region, and our people. The timelines we face are tight. The work that remains is significant, though certainly achievable. Active engagement at the national level on a number of these initiatives is essential to progress work. Clearly then, in the time you have today, as Officials and servants of the region we must ensure that all these necessary issues are the subject of serious deliberation.

12. As I conclude my remarks, I urge that you remain mindful of the need to work towards the Leaders’ vision of a prosperous Pacific, with dynamic and vibrant economies.

13. I wish you the best outcomes from your discussions.

Thank you.

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