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Address by SG Slade at China-Pacific Trade & Investment Seminar

 

Second China-Pacific Islands Countries
Economic Development and Cooperation Forum

 

Seminar on Trade and Investment

Theme: Deepening Economic and Trade Cooperation and
Promoting Green Development


8 November, 2013

Panorama, 42 Floor,
The Westin Pazhou

Guangzhou, China

 

Statement by:
Tuiloma Neroni Slade

Secretary General

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

 

 

 

Honourable Leaders and Ministers

Mr Wang Chao, Vice Minister of Commerce

Senior Officials

Distinguished delegates from the Private Sector

 

In this presentation I want to reflect on progressive opportunities in the Pacific islands for Chinese trade and investment.

 

In doing so, I start with some preliminary points. First, that we already have a significant track record of almost 40 years of building and nurturing economic, trade and cultural cooperation to where they are today which are, for the Pacific region, of the highest priority and importance, and we also have the Guiding Framework of 2006, established at the First China-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Development Forum. So, in the context of the seminar theme, for deepening economic and trade cooperation with Chinaand promoting green development,we are not starting from scratch, but rather on the basis of strength from work done and ongoing.

 

The task of deepening economic and trade cooperation is substantially enhanced by China’s significant financial commitment to the Pacific, regionally and bilaterally, and further extended so generously by the policy and financial measures announced this morning.

 

With this brief stock-take, let me then share some thoughts on opportunities for deeper cooperation and integration.

 

Trade & Investment Environment

 

First and foremost, it is important to emphasise the fact that the Pacific islands and China enjoy and maintain a stable broad-based sustainable development partnership and the most friendly of relations.  We need to build on this long historical relationship with its infinite is a relationship with infinite prospects through which businesses can thrive.

 

China’s trade with the Pacific islands is increasing significantly in many important ways. At their meeting in May 2013, the Forum Secretariat was directed by Pacific ACP Trade Ministers to explore avenues for a trade and development cooperation arrangement such as a Free Trade Agreement between the Pacific island countries and China.  A Free Trade Agreement with comprehensive commitments in trade in services, investments, trade facilitation and development cooperation would be an effective approach to integrate the region into the global economy and strengthen economic cooperation between China and Pacific economies.

 

We have raised the need to consider and discuss a mechanism and modality to explore a structured engagement on a trade, investment and development cooperation agreement, including preferential access for Pacific island country exports into China through a commitment in principle to a regional approach to reduced tariff and improved trade facilitation of Pacific exports to China as an early harvest arrangement.

 

Trade and Investment Opportunities

 

The Pacific island economies are undertaking deliberate attempts to engage with the Asian economies, especially with China.  The Pacific islands are known globally for their pristine, though fragile, environment.  This type of environment is all now too rare; it is our precious asset and legacy for future generations.  Every concerted effort should be made to preserve the natural Pacific environment and to promote sustainable and green development.

 

Tourism industry is well acknowledged and a common opportunity for development for the Pacific islands.  Our comparative advantage in tourism is based on what our islands have to offer – the sea, the sand, the sun and the serene environment and wondrously diverse cultures. The tourism sector alone provides huge investment opportunities. You all know about this, indeed, a great deal has already been said on tourism today. Suffice it for me to say that I believe that there is much more we in the Pacific could do to be pro-active, imaginative and competitive in the form of accommodation infrastructure, restaurants, tour and transport solutions and many associated auxiliary services to support the tourism sector.  Direct transport solutions from China to the Pacific islands are high impact investments that are needed to support tourism growth between China and the Pacific islands.

 

The fisheries resources of the Pacific island countries and territories are world-status in every respect and critically central in efforts to improve the lives of Pacific communities.  The Pacific oceanic resources provide around a quarter of the world’s tuna catch and support both small and large fishing enterprises; provide government revenue; and, in many countries, represent the main opportunity for economic development.  The development of medium scale freshwater aquaculture enterprises in peri-urban areas represents one of the best opportunities to meet the shortfalls, and to complement smaller scale projects already in progress in inland rural areas.  Given the volume of fisheries products produced in China through aquaculture, there is potential for transfer of technology and farming techniques for investment in the Pacific islands.

 

Pacific agriculture, fisheries and tourism are the key comparative advantage sectors that present enormous opportunities for trade and investment cooperation with China.  The Pacific islands could benefit from capacity training in crop production, commercial farm management and farming competencies relevant to farm enterprises such as business planning and management focusing on increasing productivity.  Investment in processing food will help boost Pacific agri-business and will provide for value addition and differentiate Pacific products from competitors.

 

China’s support for infrastructure development such as improved farm access roads, improved shipping services by connecting islands on a regular basis would assist in stimulating agriculture production and regional trade.  Today, there is a range of high end health and food products such as Noni, honey, mineral water and seaweeds; and sea sponges, minerals, fisheries, agriculture and forestry products all compose the tantalising basket of Pacific islands exports to China.  Improved market access for Pacific products in the major markets is currently being facilitated, and we look forward to China’s efforts in supporting more Pacific exports to China.

 

In addition to the trade and investment opportunities in the tourism, agriculture and fisheries sector, extractive industries, services industries such as the audiovisual and film making sector, and renewable energy solutions are also emerging to be the key areas of engagement by Chinese businesses in the Pacific island countries. Increasingly, we are also witnessing interests by Chinese investors in real estate and small and medium retail businesses that is changing the business landscapes in many of the Pacific islands.

 

Many of our Pacific island countries have put in place attractive investment and export incentives schemes that ensure that businesses are internationally competitive when operating in the Pacific islands.  A number of Pacific island countries are also part of international trade agreements and arrangements that allow for exports from the Pacific islands under preferential market access to developed economies such as Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and the European Union.

 

Let me say it very clearly: we welcome investments from China.

 

Regional Services for Infrastructure

 

Pacific island countries have and continue to receive support from development partners, such as China, to assist and support national efforts in addressing rising infrastructural needs.  

 

Affordable and reliable energy sources remain a significant challenge for Pacific island countries, and engaging the private sector and creating a market for energy efficient technology is an area requiring up-scaling in the region.  China’s remarkable improvements in renewable energy growth are extremely encouraging and would appear to be useful examples for deployment in the Pacific island countries.  

 

Transport efficiency is also an area that could have significant co-benefits for the region, including in shipping. China is assisting some of the Pacific island countries with domestic transportation services, including construction of roads and other related infrastructure.  We would suggest that such engagements be intensified. In fact, I am very happy to note the heavy emphasis on infrastructure in the new policy measures announced by the Vice-Premier today. Further, regional maritime and aviation solutions need to be supported noting the importance of transport to support trade and tourism in the Pacific islands.

 

China’s ongoing support to assist in the development and strengthening of necessary human, institutional and regulatory frameworks that would enhance the efficiency of ICT infrastructure utilisation is crucial.

 

Pacific Trade and Invest Office, Beijing

 

The Pacific Islands’ trade and investment promotion agency, the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PT&I) has a presence in Beijing and is an integral part of the network of PT&I Offices that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has in Auckland, Sydney and Tokyo, including a desk in Geneva to develop, grow and promote industry and the businesses of all Forum countries, in particular the fourteen Pacific island countries in export, investment and tourism promotion across international markets.

 

The Government of the Peoples Republic of China provides essential support to PT&I Beijing in the important role that the office plays in facilitating friendship and economic cooperation between China and the Pacific island countries and we deeply appreciate this assistance.

 

The various networks that the PT&I Beijing Office has built with China reflect both national and regional interests.  Innovative concepts such as twinning arrangements between Pacific islands business organisations and their counterparts in Chinese regions need to be explored further.  Accordingly, the Forum Secretariat continues to seek the support of Pacific island countries, and China, in advancing the work of the PT&I Beijing Office.

 

Our PT&I Beijing team is in Guangzhou this week and I encourage you to enquire further with them on how they can be of assistance to you.

 

As I conclude, let me say it again that we welcome engagements for improved trade and investments between China and the Pacific islands.

 

Thank You.  

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