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Regional Trade Mainstreaming Workshop

Regional Trade Mainstreaming Workshop

30-31 October, 2017
Nadi, Fiji

Opening Remarks by Shiu Raj, Director Programmes & Initiatives, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

 

Representative of the EU Delegation to the Pacific, Mr Christoph Wagner

Representative of TradeComII, Ms Poonam Deneswaree MOHUN

Distinguished representatives of Development Partners, Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers, Senior Officials, ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, I extend to you all a warm welcome to this Regional Trade Mainstreaming Workshop. I am pleased to see the very good level of attendance, which certainly is a reflection of the importance your government places on mainstreaming trade into your development objectives.

Our discussions at this workshop will focus on very practical aspects of trade mainstreaming, seeking to build on each other’s experiences in this area, and to discuss the best practices based on lessons learnt over time.

Trade Policy Frameworks

While the regional work on Trade Policy Frameworks (TPFs) has been part of our workprogramme for about a decade, the acknowledgement that there was a need for a concerted effort in augmenting our capacity to formulate comprehensive trade and investment facilitation policy frameworks was formally registered about two decades ago as the region commenced initiatives to gradually become part of the global trading systems.

Five of our Members are founding members of the WTO, which came to be in 1995. In late 90s, PICTA and PACER negotiations got initiated, and these Agreements opened for signature in 2001. At the heart of the negotiations was the explicit acknowledgement that the Forum Island Countries (FICs) needed to build their capacity to trade before opening their economies. The Regional Trade Facilitation Programme became the most important part of PACER, to help build FIC capacities in Customs, Biosecurity and Standards through assistance from Australia and New Zealand.

About a decade and half later, we now have PACER Plus which has a significant capacity development and implementation dimension. Also, under the WTO framework, a comprehensive Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has come into force. The TFA aims to assist the WTO Members in systematically identifying its trade capacity needs, and determining what can be addressed by themselves and what areas require technical assistance. Later in the week we will take stock of how the FIC – WTO Members are tracking on the notification requirement of the TFA, but suffice to say that we now have a relatively structured mechanism to link our work on trade and investment policy frameworks to other mechanisms of technical assistance. And we also have the Interim EPA which is still shaping. And also, other subregional initiatives.

A key feature of this journey has been the joint collaboration of a number of development partners and technical agencies to advance the trade development agenda of the FICs, through the establishment of TPFs and other similar instruments to inform decision making on trade and development. For example, some FIC-WTO Members are linking their Trade Policy Review (TPR) process to the review of the implementation of their TPFs.

Our work on the TPFs have been supported thorough a multi-stakeholder commitment. The European Union have played an important role in supporting this journey. The region has benefited from PACREIP and PITAP/SPEITT initiatives under the 9th and 10th EDF schemes respectively. This work has been also supported through the Intra-ACP EU funded projects such as the Hub and Spokes programme, under the guidance of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Entities such as the EIF and the ITC also joined forces to assist the FICs in formulating and implementing their TPFs.

Impact on the ground

But, what is the impact on the ground through these TPFs? In addition to the opportunities, the TPFs provide a holistic analysis of challenges to a given FIC’s integration into global trade; and proposes practical pathways to overcome such challenges. An important element of the TPFs are the associated implementation matrices, which put a yardstick to the gradual implementation of the TPFs.

All FICs have now developed some sort of TPFs. Generally, the impact of TPFs on the respective FICs is impressively positive. In most cases, TPFs have provided clear rules and objectives of engagement between the TPF owner and the relevant trading partners. For instance, Fiji and Solomon Islands TPFs played critical roles in their engagement with the WTO during their TPR cycle. In Vanuatu, the TPF helped in unlocking significant streams of Aid for Trade Resources.  We look forward to hearing further country case studies about the value of TPFs during the discussions today and tomorrow

The TPFs have also introduced a new dimension of inclusiveness in trade policy development and implementation through the National Trade Development/Facilitation Committees or similar entities. The establishment of NTDCs has opened wider doors for all stakeholder groups - private sector, civil society and government agencies, to engage in collective decision making.

Colleagues, this journey has also provided us with significant lessons to learn from, in order to better our approaches to trade development. For instance, the level of implementation of TPFs among PACPS varies, due to different reasons including capacity constraints. Also, experience has revealed that successful implementation of TPFs requires strong leadership, and a whole of “Stakeholder Group’s collaboration” and benefits from “multidisciplinary skillsets.”

Transitioning out

It is against this experience that at their 2015 meeting, Forum Trade Ministers agreed that implementation of TPFs should be mainstreamed through National Development Plans/Strategies and requested Development Partners, and the Secretariat to allocate resources to this body of work.  This reflects the fact that trade policy is not an end in itself, but rather a key tool to be used as part of an overall sustainable development strategy.

As part of the transitioning arrangements, the Secretariat introduced a demand driven peer-to-peer learning programme to allow FICs to exchange knowledge and skills surrounding broader trade policies. The direct beneficiaries for this programme this year were:

  • Solomon Islands officials - peer learning to Fiji, focusing on Trade data;
  • Samoa-study tour to Fiji - focusing on competition and consumer protection policies;
  • Cook Islands’ attachment to PIFS - focusing on building the capacity of new trade official on international trade and regionalism; and
  • Nauru, Kiribati and Vanuatu attachment at the Forum Secretariat - focusing on trade mainstreaming.

In 2017, altogether fourteen officials have participated in this peer learning programme. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Fiji Government and officials for hosting some of these peer learning stints and for sharing their experience.

As the FICs mature in the management of trade and investment policies, we move away from capacity building and start focusing on capacity supplementation. In partnership with our development partners, including the EU through the TradeComII project, PIFS has developed a trade mainstreaming guide to assist FICs effectively implement and mainstream trade into National Development Plans/Strategies. It is based on our experiences and best practice with a particular focus on the Pacific context. Later today we will consider this Guide collectively and make necessary amends to ensure that it reflects accurately the lessons we have learnt over time. Let me take this opportunity to thank the ACP Secretariat, TradeComII staff and the consultants for your contributions.

This best practice guide now allows PIFS to transition away from direct support for TPF-related work and allow FICs to take full ownership of the TPF implementation, monitoring and review process. PIFS will continue to facilitate south-south knowledge exchange programmes supplemented by relevant “knowledge products” tailored to the FIC contexts and needs. The focus will primarily be on regionalism initiatives.

Aid-for-Trade

As our members’ TPFs are mainstreamed into national sustainable development strategies, governments will have to make important decisions about which initiatives to fund through their core budgets and when to seek assistance from development partners.  Regarding trade and investment policy objectives, aid-for-trade principles will have a critical role to play.

In the recent years, the Secretariat’s support to Members has been guided by the Pacific Regional Aid-for-Trade (AfT) Strategy 2014-17.  This Strategy was recently reviewed, and the findings have highlighted the great value in having a Regional Strategy. The review also makes some recommendations on how future Regional AfT Strategy is to be developed, ensuring linkages with national and regional initiatives. We need to ensure that our AfT Strategy is consistent with regional priorities – especially the priorities identified through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. Our work at the regional level needs to complement your work at the national level to implement country-specific AfT projects.

The informal consultations with Members and development partners on a new Regional AfT Strategy has commenced.  In July this year, in the margins of the Global Review of AfT in Geneva, PIFS held a side event where we sought the views of our WTO Members and around a dozen development partners.  At this workshop, we have a chance to speak to our full membership – including Trade and Planning officials – for their views on how a Regional AfT Strategy can support trade mainstreaming.

Competition

As the FIC economies increasingly become part of the global trading systems, we need to gear ourselves for more competition. We need to ensure that we have modern policies that support competition without stifling equal opportunities for local and foreign investments. Our commitments in various trade agreements exposes us to new challenges that need to be addressed.

The PICTA Trade in Services Protocol and the PACER Plus are expected to come into force in the coming year. Both these agreements open up the trade in services and investment markets in the Member economies. We need to ensure that the relevant facilitative regulatory frameworks are in place, including in areas of competition policy.

The Forum Economic and Trade Ministers, and Forum Leaders have also recognised the potential of initiatives on regional mobility and harmonised business practice to contribute to increased economic integration, greater investment, and improved business practices. In 2017, the FEMM recognised the need for the standardisation of business practices with the aim of increased economic integration, higher levels of investment and more facilitative business practices. Concerted efforts are being made to improve the investment climate and the ease of doing business in the region, and to promote private sector growth and addressing the challenges faced by the private sector in achieving that end.

While work on Competition Policy is explicitly mandated by Leaders of Ministers, elements of the FEMM and FTMM work programme dovetail with ongoing regional and international trends as it relates to Competition policy within the broader framework of: improving the business climate; increasing the ease of business and the harmonisation of business practices. We look forward to fruitful discussions on this emerging issue which will become increasingly important for trade policy in the region.

Conclusion

Over the years we have done well as a region in diagnosing trade opportunities and problems.  Now we need to turn our attention to mainstreaming trade into national development strategies and implementing the policies which will support our development. The Regional Trade Mainstreaming Guide should be a very useful tool for Trade and Planning officials seeking to mainstream trade as part of their development plans. PIFS continues to be available to provide assistance through regional AfT mechanisms which can complement national AfT projects.  We look forward to further consultations with you. We’re also ready to provide support through peer learning and South-South attachments as Members seek to address emerging issues such as investment and competition.

Let me conclude by making reference to the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest network of offices in Auckland, Beijing, Geneva, Suva, Sydney and Tokyo. The PT&I network exists to work with the private sector to help place the Pacific islands products in new markets and to drive investments into the Pacific region. I encourage you to make effective use of this regional service that is available to all Members. Through the PT&I engagements, we will be translating many of the policies into practices, eventuating the real tangible results in the form of business to business transactions.

Please allow me to thank all experts and advisers who have worked together to put this comprehensive programme for us. A special mention goes to the Government of Japan who have joined our long terms partners in the area of trade, investment and private sector – Australia, New Zealand and the EU, to contribute to this workshop.

 

I wish you well in your discussions.


 

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