Statement by Dame Meg Taylor at the Closing of the Aid for Trade in Asia and the Pacific: Promoting Connectivity for Inclusive Development Conference at the University of the South Pacific (delivered by Shiu Raj, Director Programmes & Initiatives)




Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General


8 February 2018
FBE Lecture Theatre
University of the South Pacific


  • Australian High Commissioner, H.E. John Feakes
  • Vice President of the Asian Development Bank, H.E. Bambang Susantano
  • Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Professor Rajesh Chandra
  • Director of the Development Division at the World Trade Organisation, Mr Shishir Priyadarshi
  • Distinguished participants
  • Thank you for the opportunity to share some closing remarks this afternoon.
  • It has been most rewarding for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to partner with the ADB, USP and WTO to bring this Pacific-focused conference to you. It is encouraging to see the participation of representatives from the Business Community, Civil Society, and Academia.
  • I extend my appreciation to the Vice Chancellor and management of the USP for hosting this conference, and commend you for continuing to offer a platform for regional conversations on innovative ideas on issues facing the region.
  • The world has become more inter-connected in the stead of rapid globalisation and there is much that the Pacific region can learn from neighbouring regions such as Asia.  I acknowledge the efforts of the ADB in supporting our island economies to address the inherent challenges we face as “geographically-challenged, sea locked” countries or in the terms that we prefer to use “big ocean stewardship states”.  To this end, we welcome the recent publication of ADB “Aid for Trade in Asia and the Pacific” and the dedicated analysis and case studies on Pacific Island countries.
  • On the same note, I acknowledge the valuable work undertaken by the WTO on the global agenda, including the recent theme on connectivity, which has contributed to our work on two key regional priorities: Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Connectivity and Air Connectivity.
  • On the matter of Aid for Trade – building on our Members’ priorities and the analytical support of our development partners, the Forum Secretariat is developing a fit-for-purpose regional Aid for Trade Strategy, which intends to guide the region’s approach to aid for trade coordination and collaboration efforts in the coming years.
  • You will note that in their endorsement of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in 2014, Forum Leaders called for “effective, open and honest relationships, and inclusive and enduring partnerships – grounded in mutual accountability and respect – with each other, within our sub-regions, within our region, and also beyond our region”.
  • Accordingly, recognising that Aid for Trade is a key source of development assistance to the Pacific, coupled with the emergence of new partners, we need to ensure that these funds are channelled towards areas of significant impact-and high priority and need for the region. Development partners are encouraged to channel trade-related interventions to regionalism priorities such as ICT, harmonisation of the business environment, labour mobility and the fisheries sector. In doing so, it is imperative that the benefits of these investments reach down to the people at community levels.
  • I urge our development partners to engage regional agencies in the delivery of Aid for Trade initiatives at the regional level, whenever regional economies of scale exist and/or when the potential for regional cooperation and/or integration justifies this type of action.
  • At the national level, there is merit in ensuring that Aid for Trade resources build sustainable capacities and strengthen institutions within beneficiary countries. Ensuring a proper balance between “Peoples’ capacity, Project ownership, and strong institutions” is a minimum principle that should be encouraged so as to achieve sustainable Aid for Trade outcomes and help the Pacific islands achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - within the context of the Forum Leaders 2017 Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development.
  • The potential of Aid for Trade to poverty reduction and the realisation of the Pacific’s aspirations and objectives for Sustainable Development is unquestionable. However, for trade to be inclusive, we need to recognise poverty as a multidimensional issue. Aid for Trade resources should assist policy makers address the deeper forms of poverty associated with limited participation of all stakeholder groups, including women and youth, into trade policy decision making processes. Empowering the vulnerable stakeholder groups in our societies is essential in the formulation and implementation of inclusive and considerate trade policies, and the related Aid for Trade Initiatives.
  • As you may be aware, the Secretariat is currently involved in national and regional consultations on issues that have been prioritised by our Leaders. A common feedback received through these consultations refers to the inability of many of our Members to finance their development agenda. Aid-for-Trade interventions should therefore be based on detailed diagnostic work on where the gaps lie and link the efforts to the development agenda. The Secretariat has worked with the Pacific island countries over the years to help produce Trade and Investment Policy Frameworks which outline a clear action plan on the top priorities for intervention. 
  • I would encourage development partners to draw on these TPFs as the basis for their support to the region. This work on Trade Ppolicy Frameworks has been complemented by a regional trade mainstreaming guide on how Aid for Trade resources should be allocated within the broader “whole of government” national budgeting and planning systems.  Such practices have the potential to up-scale aid for trade effectiveness, ensure mutual accountability, align interventions, and harmonise systems (including reporting and audit). I acknowledge the European Union (through relevant Intra-ACP programmes, including TRADECOM II programme) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (through the Hub and Spokes programme) for their partnership with the Forum Secretariat in accomplishing this important work.
  • Let me once again thank the various agencies that have teamed up to convene this conference, as promoting connectivity for inclusive development through aid for trade needs to be a priority for all development partners that support Pacific Island Countries.
  • Thank you.


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