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Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Observer statement by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, at the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting 8 November 2017 Da Nang, Vietnam
Delivered by Mr Shiu Raj, Director Programmes and Initiatives
 
Co-Chairs, Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen
 
1. On behalf of the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, it is my privilege to deliver the Pacific Islands Forum Observer statement, to highlight a number of important issues that we believe requires attention by the APEC economies in the next 12 months.
 
2. We thank Vietnam’s efforts in setting the platform for ‘Creating new dynamism, and fostering shared future’ in APEC this year. It is the shared future that I will place emphasis on in my message today. 
 
3. As we arrived to participate in the APEC meetings this week, we were greeted by Typhoon Damrey, which lashed strong winds and dumped huge amounts of rain, resulting in fatalities. Our deepest sympathies are with the Government of Vietnam and its people for the losses and damages sustained due to the adverse weather. 
 
Actions to address Climate Change
4. Ladies and Gentlemen, such disasters are becoming frequent, stronger in intensity, and are also occurring outside the normal season. In recent years, three of the Pacific Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji were struck by very intense cylcones resulting in damages equivalent to as high as 64% of their Gross Domestic Product (in Vanuatu’s case). And I am sure the hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean islands recently is still fresh in everyone’s mind. These frequent and strong cyclones are becoming the new norm. We need to urgently make adjustments to the way we are affecting our environment.
 
5. There is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that due to uncontrolled pollution, our planet is heating up. Sea levels are rising. And as a consequence, our islands are suffering the most - forcing people to relocate. It is time for the climate change sceptics to rethink, and correct their path. It needs to happen urgently, it needs to happen now! Our Leaders have declared that climate change is the single biggest threat to our nations, and the Pacific Islands are doing all they can to advocate for collective actions to save our Earth, and to save our Oceans.
 
6. Fiji has championed this cause at the global level through its presidency of the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proceedings, currently taking place in Bonn, Germany. The Pacific Island Leaders are joining Fiji and other nations, calling for concrete actions by all to address the climate change issues. On their way to Bonn, the Pacific Island Leaders will knock on the door of a significant moral and spiritual authority to urge an inclusive approach to respond to climate change we are witnessing. While the APEC Leaders will be meeting in Vietnam on the 11 November, the Pacific Island Leaders will be having an audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis, to garner support for climate action. Climate Change has become everyone’s business and we need to tackle the issues appropriately with extreme urgency at all levels.  
 
7. The Pacific Islands are taking very deliberate and concrete actions to adapt to and to mitigate the effects of climate change. We are investing in resilient development. Our Leaders have endorsed the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) as a best practice guide to ensure that we invest in robust structures to prepare for natural disasters. We are also investing in Renewable Energy solutions. We are taking an inclusive approach to addressing climate change. But all these investments are becoming costly day by day, a cost that the Pacific Islands have to bear despite us not being the major polluters. We are even developing a Pacific Resilience Fund to cater for our specific financing needs. We are doing our part, and we are calling on APEC economies to do their part in combating climate change and reduce global warming. We are calling for your active participation at COP23 for a positive outcome for our planet. We also seek closer collaboration and support in the delivery of assistance towards improved adaptation and mitigation efforts by the Pacific Islands for a better shared future. 
 
8. I wish to urge all our economies to be more responsible in the way we create dynamism, and ensure that we take care of our neighbours – the Pacific Islands, who are the custodians of large oceans. APEC economies’ shared future with the Pacific Islands will compulsorily require a focus on the Oceans, and explore elements of Connectivity. 
 
The Blue Pacific
9. Two months ago, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their annual gathering highlighted The Blue Pacific as the distinct identity of the Pacific people, linking it to the importance of us working together to keep our oceans healthy. Leaders recognised The Blue Pacific as a new narrative that calls for inspired leadership and a long-term Forum foreign policy commitment to act as one “Blue Continent”. In considering the shifts in the global and regional contexts, Leaders recognised the opportunity of The Blue Pacific identity to reinforce the potential of our shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean and reaffirm the connections of Pacific peoples with their natural resources, environment, culture and livelihoods.
 
10. We call on APEC economies to invest in our sea of islands for a shared future and security through sustainable development, management and conservation of our oceans and its resources. We need to exploit our resources responsibly, and ensure that the fish we eat today is also available for the future generations. This is the shared future the Pacific Islands are calling for. But there is more than just fish in our oceans. 
 
11. For the next 12 months, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is APEC’s host in The Blue Pacific, a region of pristine resources, blessed with thousands of islands, vast marine and terrestrial resources, diverse cultures and beautiful people. Our uniqueness is our many Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and the ability of our Leaders to make the hard decisions to ensure a fair balance between conservation measures and effective management of our oceanic resources. Ours is the only ocean region globally where our tuna stocks are considered sustainable and well managed. It is the envy of many nations wanting access to exploit these resources. 
 
12. The Pacific region boasts the largest tuna purse seine fisheries globally with up to 50% of global skipjack tuna supply coming from PNG waters alone – indeed, our fisheries stock feeds the world. The Pacific Islands Forum nations boast at least 10 major tuna processors, providing thousands of jobs and local commerce in each sub-region, but there is potential for many more. The Pacific Islands are seeking improved economic returns from the fisheries sector and there is potential for APEC economies to assist. We welcome genuine investors into the region to work with us as partners in sustainably developing the future of our nations and our region. Throughout the year, the APEC meetings will showcase PNG, but please let this be a window to see and explore what other Forum Island Countries have to offer. 
 
Pacific Islands Connection
13. The Prime Minister of PNG has invited the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to meet with the APEC Leaders in the margins of the APEC Leaders meeting in November 2018. While only three of the PIF Members are currently part of APEC, fifteen aren’t. However, nine of the eighteen PIF Dialogue Partners are APEC economies. The proposed dialogue between the Leaders would therefore be an excellent platform to explore more opportunities for improved connectivity. The coming 12 months are very important. We need to capitalise on the opportunities available and need to work together so that concrete connectivity solutions are discussed at the 2018 APEC Leaders meeting, which brings the Pacific Islands and APEC economies closer. 
 
14. The Pacific region is already reaching out to Asia and progressing consultation on the development of a Sustainable Development Framework for interaction with Asian economies as tasked by Forum Economic and Trade Ministers. We are also progressing work on bringing a future Asia Pacific Business Forum to the Pacific so that we create a platform for business to business linkages between the two regions. 
 
15. In addition to the series of APEC meetings, we also call on APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) to reach out to the private sector in the Pacific islands in the next 12 months to determine how improved investments and trading relations can be encouraged. Our Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PTI) network of offices in Auckland, Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo stand ready to explore tangible ways in which these transactions can be facilitated. It is important to note that we have a very high concentration of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and a significant number of informal sector businesses that need support.
 
16. The opportunities for connectivity with the Pacific Islands are immense through investments in the tourism sector, maritime and air transport, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, technical and vocational training and tertiary education, and broader trade. This year, eleven PIF Members signed the Pacific Agreement of Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus and are in the process of ratifying the Agreement. Additionally, trade under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) is also intensifying. It is important that we work together and support Multilateral Trading Systems that provide certainty for businesses and increase long term investments in our economies. 
 
17. The plethora of APEC initiatives are quite impressive with significant results achieved over time. As we engage in PNG’s year of APEC, and focus on “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future” based on Growth, Connectivity and Digital Economy, I wish to propose two specific initiatives for our joint investment to bring the Pacific Islands and the APEC economies closer. First, the Action Agenda on Advancing Economic, Financial and Social Inclusion and its related priority areas of work so that we do not leave anyone behind and work towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have endorsed the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development which is now being implemented. Second, the initiatives on Internet and Digital Economy Roadmap to connect the isolated islands and communities to address their business needs and improve access to information and support E-Commerce. 
 
18. The PIF Secretariat stands ready to support PNG as the forthcoming hosts of APEC meetings and looks forward to working closely with the APEC Secretariat and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). We believe that as APEC shapes a post-2020 vision, institutional capacities and coordination needs to be strengthened. We need to continuously identify what can be done better collectively, rather than individually.
 
19. Let me conclude by congratulating the Government and people of Vietnam for their hospitality and the excellent arrangements made for the meetings, despite the nature’s calamity on this week. The Pacific region joins PNG in welcoming you to our islands over the next 12 months for the APEC meetings. 
 
Thank You. 
© 2017 Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat www.forumsec.org