[Majuro, RMI] The 2012 Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) provides an important opportunity to make firm commitments towards advancing priority regional trade negotiations such as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus.
This was the message given by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, in his remarks made at the opening of the 2012 FTMM this morning in Majuro, capital of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
“Progress made so far gives optimism that engagement in PACER Plus negotiations could be intensified,” said Mr Slade. “While we need to continue with focused discussions on common priority issues such as the rules of origin, customs procedures, regional labour mobility and also related development assistance, engagement in additional common priorities is necessary to advance the negotiations.”
PACER Plus negotiations offer an opportunity to help Pacific Islands Forum countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration. PACER Plus negotiations were launched in August 2009.
Mr Slade also urged an effective and inclusive approach to the development of the trade agenda in the region.
“Ongoing dialogue with the Non-State Actors on the current trade negotiations and in the implementation of trade agreements are crucial engagements that we need to support at the national, as well as at the regional level,” said Mr Slade.
“Similarly, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have recognised the important role of the private sector in the region’s economic development.”
Mr Slade acknowledged that Pacific countries face significant challenges to trade development and increasing trade activity.
“Remoteness of communities, smallness of economies and distance from major markets are some of our region’s main constraints to trade,” said Mr Slade.
“The time and cost and complexity of travel, to almost any Forum island capital are the realities of our region. These are factors well recognised in the Pacific Plan adopted by Leaders in 2005, as well as the need for comprehensive and practical strategies and solutions to enhance coordination and efforts for regional cooperation and integration to raise the living standards of all Pacific people.”
Trade Ministers’ discussions at the 2012 FTMM will include progress of the Secretariat’s Pacific Islands Trade and Invest offices located in Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Beijing, which continue to promote trade and investment development throughout the region, with benefits particularly for Smaller Island States.
Ministers will also discuss progress on World Trade Organisation (WTO) related issues, and will receive updates on the progress of the PACER Plus consultations, including the recent NSA Dialogue on PACER Plus.
Ministers will assess progress of the region’s Traditional Knowledge (TK) Action Plan, launched in 2009, and deliberate on a process for moving into Phase Two of the initiative. Ministers will also discuss progressing the Regional Trademarks Application System.
Click here to view the Secretary General’s full speech at the 2012 FTMM opening ceremony