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SG's speech PIASA Launch Tonga
REMARKS BY MR GREG URWIN, SECRETARY GENERAL,
PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
at the
COCKTAIL RECEPTION HOSTED BY THE SG TO LAUNCH THE
PACIFIC ISLANDS AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT (PIASA)
JANFUL INTERNATIONAL HOTEL, NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA
MONDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2007


Your Majesty, King George Tupou V
Your Royal Highness, Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita
Forum Leaders
Prime Minister, Dr Feleti Sevele and Cabinet Ministers
Your Excellencies
Distinguished guests
Friends and colleagues.

A warm welcome to you all. We have had a busy schedule today with the conclusion of the Smaller Islands States and Pacific ACP Leaders’ Summits. I hope this evening’s cocktail function will provide you with an opportunity to relax.

2. As you are aware, tonight’s function marks the official launch of the Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement, or PIASA, commonly referred to as the ‘open skies’ agreement. PIASA was endorsed by Forum representatives in Tonga in 2002, opened for signature in Auckland on 16 August 2003, and signed by a number of Pacific Island Forum Ministers on that day.
3. The importance of developing regional transport services embodied in the adoption of PIASA was subsequently reflected in the Pacific Plan endorsed by Leaders in 2005, under the priority area of “Economic Growth”.

4. The highly regulated nature of regional air travel tends to manifest itself in the lack of frequent direct flights and high travel costs on routes between Forum Island Countries. I am certain we are all too aware of this. The consequent barriers to growth the industry faces further hinders the economic benefits that the freer movement of goods and services provides.

5. PIASA’s main objective is to establish a framework for the gradual integration of aviation services, providing a multi-lateral basis for this to occur among our countries. This would, in effect, enable Pacific carriers to increase their range of activities to take advantage of the benefits of regional alliances and cooperation. Anticipated benefits include increased airline access to routes between FICs, expansion and efficiency improvements for airlines, greater use of code sharing and alliances, improved connectivity within the region to promote tourism, and more cargo options for exporters and importers.

6. PIASA was, and still is, driven by the need to allow countries' air services to fully develop and become more efficient. It does not, by any means, seek to provide the complete answer to air transport problems in the Pacific. Rather, it is a means of complementing other national and regional strategies.

7. To date there are 10 signatories of PIASA and with the deposit of their respective instruments with the Forum Secretariat, six countries have now ratified it: the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. The sixth ratification, by Niue, was received just over one month ago and so, in accordance with the treaty’s terms, brought it into force two days ago on 13 October.

8. The obvious question now is “where to from here”? There will be three stages of liberalisation under PIASA, intended to assist participating governments and airlines gradually adapt, by encouraging airlines to build their capacity within the region first, so they can eventually survive in an international market. It must be noted that PIASA will not apply to services between FIC and non-FICs, where bilateral agreements will continue to operate.

9. The entry into force of PIASA is indeed a great achievement for regional transport, ladies and gentlemen. I would urge the six founding parties to make the most of the important opportunities opened for them by the treaty, and encourage those who have not yet joined to give it your serious consideration.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the evening.

Malo ‘aupito