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SG's remarks, FEMM 2007
REMARKS BY MR GREG URWIN
SECRETARY GENERAL, PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
AT THE FORUM ECONOMIC MINISTERS’ MEETING
Koror, Republic of Palau
11 July 2007


HE The President
HE The Vice President
Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Cook Islands and Honourable Ministers
Members of the National Congress
Heads of Delegations
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Distinguished Delegates and Observers
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Alii, good morning and welcome to the 11th Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting. On behalf of all of us may I formally thank our hosts, the Government and People of the Republic of Palau, for the excellent arrangements and the very warm hospitality extended to us since our arrival in Koror. May I request you all to join me in expressing our appreciation to them. Thank you.

2. If I may, I’ll begin by recalling the Leaders’ Vision – of “a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, so that all of our people can lead free and worthwhile lives”. Their endorsement of the Pacific Plan in 2005, a Plan for closer regional co-operation and integration has enabled us to set forth on a more resolute and convergent path, pursuing the region’s strategic goals of economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security – with a renewed vigour. It is a long road that we have set out on, and we need to recognise this, to acknowledge that while we must achieve early results, this is, essentially, a matter for the long haul. Nor, of course, do we yet know what the quality and extent of our regional cooperation and integration may be. We must keep testing this as we proceed.

3. The Economic Ministers at last year’s meeting again acknowledged the important, indeed critical role they have to play in the achievement of the Leaders’ vision. In this regard, the recognition of FEMM’s lead role in regional economic integration, its responsibilities for that part of the Pacific Plan, and its relationship with the Forum Leaders’ Meeting is worth recalling. Appropriately, then, the key themes of this FEMM reflect both the objective towards which Leaders have asked us to work – economic growth; and one of the key tools that they have asked us to use to attain it – that is the goal of regional economic integration.

4. With reference to the goal of economic growth, this year’s meeting will hear, in the keynote session presentations on the region’s growth record and measures which may lift our performance in the way of reform commitments, including those shaped by FEMM itself.

5. Besides the keynote presentation itself, there will be country presentations covering economic performance, structural adjustment and reform efforts, particularly those committed to at FEMM, the implementation of which is measured by our Biennial Stocktake. With another stocktake due to be reviewed next year, our collective efforts now can only serve to improve the overall implementation performance of FEMM decisions in the important areas of good governance, economic reform, financial reform and the conduct of public enterprises. Drawing on successes and failures and the sharing of country experiences will, we hope, provide useful policy lessons for us all.

6. The substantive session of FEMM will examine the means – regional economic integration - seen by Leaders as a means of achieving the goal of economic growth. Regional economic integration has become a standing item on the FEMM agenda, and has been a focus for the last two Economic Ministers Meetings. One is tempted to say that we should not let them stand, but should seek to move them forward as best we can. The second session today will address the issues of economic regulation and labour, both of which have been prioritised for closer attention given the potential they offer for enhancing the economic growth performance of Forum Island Countries. The work to be presented focuses on where we are now, and points to possible future directions for strengthened regional approaches.

7. The session will also be an opportunity to discuss some Pacific Plan related initiatives taken up by Ministers at last year’s FEMM – a regional customs service proposal, and the establishment of an independent and accountable macroeconomic and microeconomic technical assistance mechanism. The session will conclude with a presentation on financial sector reform and supervision with attention to regional approaches which might be examined further.

8. The various regional initiatives we are now pursuing have the potential to enhance the coherence and cost effectiveness of national policies and the delivery of services at national level although policy decisions will, if needs to be emphasised, remain firmly in the hands of member countries. In this sense, enhancing the effective power of national governments to deliver peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity to their people is what regionalism is, and must be, all about. Let me stress that regionalism, as I have in many occasions as a means of improving national development outcomes, is only of any value if it supports and complements national efforts.

9. It goes too without saying that the Leaders’ vision cannot be achieved by Governments alone, but can only be attained on a platform of broader partnerships, within our countries and externally. Already we can see some of these partnerships at work – the number of observer organisations attending FEMM and their high level of representation is an indication of their wish to make a contribution to that same end.

10. This year has been one of fast-moving, unpredictable political developments in parts of our region. Some of those developments clearly have true potential to make more complicated the pursuits of the key objective of this regional mechanism – the Economic Ministers’ meeting that is, the promotion of regional economic growth. All the more reason, then, that we should continue to seek ways to use this mechanism as effectively as we can. It seems to me that we have made some progress in the past couple of years, in developing a sharper focus for our agenda, and I hope that will be demonstrated in what follows today. But that said – and while I have no specific, brilliant suggestions to make – I am left wondering whether we have still quite got it right, in terms first of the matters we cover in the meeting, and secondly, in respect of the translation of the decisions taken by it to the broader regional agenda and their take-up as well at the national level. You may wish to discuss this a little further, perhaps at your retreat tomorrow, if the dolphins do not prove too distractive.

11. Allow me to thank once again the government and people of the Republic of Palau, for hosting this meeting, and in particular for their evident commitment to making this FEMM a success. I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I say again just how much we appreciate this.

12. HE The President, HE the Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Ministers, and Heads of delegations, I will not take up any more of your valuable time. Thank you again for the opportunity to speak with you this morning, and I wish you a very successful and productive meeting. 

(Ends)


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