Tourism remained a key driver of economic growth in the Pacific region and significant work was undertaken in the trade sector in the past year according to the 2012 Annual Pacific Plan Progress Report.
The Report was presented at the 2012 Pacific Plan Action Committee (PPAC) meeting held at the Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji 31 July – 1 August 2012. The Report is based on progress reports from selected members of the Pacific Islands Forum and Council of Regional Orgnisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies.
The Report stated: “Tourism is the main stay for income generation in a number of Forum island countries, with some estimates suggesting that total revenue from tourism flows to the region will account for some US$2 billion from 2010 onwards.”
According to the Report, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) led efforts to improve access to the region, including through training and awareness raising for the region’s long haul international destinations including UK, Europe and China. In addition, activities were directed at expanding cruise ship visits to the region through increasing awareness and business opportunities for local stakeholders and international cruise companies.
SPTO also undertook development of niche profiles for Pacific island countries, covering such diverse activities as fishing, diving, surfing, weddings and festivals.
In recognition of the importance of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), SPTO continued to divert specific attention on capacity building for tourism SMEs.
SPTO works in partnership with the EU under the Pacific Regional Tourism Capacity Building Programme (PRTCBP) for the sustainable development and growth of tourism in the region.
In the area of trade, the 2012 Annual Pacific Plan Progress Report stated that the past year has seen significant work undertaken in progressing trade issues.
The regional free trade agreement, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), needs renewed commitment, noting that Forum Trade Ministers expressed support for New Caledonia’s efforts to accede to the Agreement.
PICTA currently covers trade in goods only, but negotiations in services are close to concluding with a target set for 2012. This is expected to significantly expand trade and investment opportunities in the Forum island countries over the coming years. The Pacific Plan Progress Report stated that issues related to labour mobility will also continue to be discussed as part of ongoing negotiations on PACER-Plus.
There has also been a strong focus on preparations for the next joint negotiating session on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Commission. Although there have been no formal negotiating sessions with the European Commission since 2009, Pacific officials have managed to secure informal meetings to help continue discussions and further progress is expected in late 2012. A key focus for the Pacific will be securing favourable rules of origin for fresh, chilled, and frozen fish, to help support fisheries sector development in the region.
The 2012 Annual Pacific Plan Progress Report will be submitted to the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum to be held in the Cook Islands 27 – 31 August.
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