Co-Chairs, Honourable Ministers, Senior Officials, Representatives of International Organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen
I bring to you warm Pacific greetings of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, who regrettably is unable to join the APEC Leaders meetings later in the week. The Pacific Islands Forum, in its Observer role with the APEC, is pleased to recognise the contributions of three of its Members – Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea; and the active role of many of its Post Forum (Development) Dialogue Partners in driving Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World as the theme for 2015 APEC Economic Leaders Meeting is most relevant for the message that Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat wishes to bring to the APEC economies this year.
The Pacific Islands are seeking the support of APEC economies in addressing the key challenges faced by the Pacific Islands to build inclusiveness. We wish to raise three important areas of improved engagement between Asia and Pacific economies for your consideration. APEC economies’ support for Pacific Regionalism; enhanced trade and investment relations with the Pacific Islands; and a commitment to address collectively the adverse impacts of Climate Change is being sought.
Support for Pacific Regionalism
The current Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum is Papua New Guinea. In September 2015, Papua New Guinea hosted the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Port Moresby, which focused on Strengthening Connections to enhance Pacific Regionalism.
Regionalism has brought substantive benefits to the Pacific region. The Pacific Plan, developed in the early 2000s as a master strategy for promoting regional cooperation and integration, was reviewed recently following which our Leaders made a commitment to progressing beyond regional cooperation towards deeper forms of regional integration where there are clear and equitable benefits to be gained. Our Leaders endorsed the re-casting of the Pacific Plan as the Framework for Pacific Regionalism to assist with the priority setting, and to also drive an inclusive process for ambitious ‘game-changing’ regional initiatives.
This year marks the first year of implementation of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, through which our Leaders have declared the following five major areas of regional actions for the Pacific Island economies as a priority:
i. Increase in the sustainable economic returns from fisheries, and improvements in maritime surveillance;
ii. Improvements in the Pacific region’s connectivity via Information and Communications Technology;
iii. Reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer;
iv. Concerted effort towards reduction of the impacts of climate change; and
v. Seek improved human rights conditions in West Papua.
These regional priorities are currently being implemented by the Pacific region, for which we seek the support of the APEC economies in driving these initiatives prioritised under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Increased Trade and Investment with the Pacific
The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their meeting in September 2015 endorsed the Hiri Declaration and have made a commitment to take effective and meaningful actions to address and implement regional connectivity in three core areas of people to people, institutional and physical connectivity. It is through such concrete initiatives that the Pacific Islands would like to forge closer relations with the APEC economies.
Papua New Guinea, in its anticipated role as the APEC Chair in 2018, has made a commitment to provide regular updates to the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers on how the Pacific Islands can collaborate further with the APEC economies to address their current challenges to sustainable growth. The first update on APEC engagement was provided by Papua New Guinea in the week of 26 October 2015 at the meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum Economic and Trade Ministers, and the Private Sector.
The Joint Forum Economic and Trade Ministers meeting with Private Sector have deliberated on “Addressing Economic Development in the Pacific Islands through the Private Sector”, and there are significant parallels to be drawn with APEC initiatives in this area. The Forum Economic Ministers discussed “Building Public-Private Partnerships as a Catalyst for Economic Growth” and the Forum Trade Ministers deliberated on “Supporting Private Sector for Increased Trade, Investment and Development”. The Private Sector have placed emphasis on “Building the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises”. The outcomes of these discussions have clearly suggested that the Pacific economies need to be part of the global economy, and closer linkages with the neighbouring economies need to be strengthened as a matter of priority.
To leverage on Asia’s economic growth, the Forum Economic Ministers have requested that practical implementable policies and initiatives be explored. The APEC economies are therefore urged to do their part in developing closer economic relations with the Pacific Islands and to deepen ties with the Pacific Islands.
The Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) network of offices, with presence in Australia, China, Europe, Japan and New Zealand seeks private sector led initiatives in trade, investment and tourism. The Pacific Islands have requested the expansion of the PT&I network to include other economies, with current focus on India, Korea and USA. The PT&I network is also involved through the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) initiatives in support of business development in the Pacific Islands. The APEC economies are encouraged to actively seek strengthening of the business to business relations with the Pacific Islands.
Addressing the impacts of Climate Change
The Pacific Islands have reiterated in many international fora that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. At their Meeting in September 2015, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders endorsed a Declaration on Climate Change Action for which we seek the support of APEC economies.
Special consideration needs to be given to the vulnerabilities of the Small Islands Developing States and the limited financial, technical and human resource capacities these island nations have in addressing the negative impact of Climate Change. The specific effects of rising sea levels, ocean acidification and more severe weather conditions are likely to lead to disappearance of many low-lying islands and require the movement of many populations away from their traditional lands and fishing areas. There is a need for scaling up of adequate, predictable and new and additional climate change financial resources with improved accessibility.
The Pacific Island Leaders are calling for the adoption of an ambitious and legally binding agreement at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), for which we seek active support of the APEC economies.
The Pacific Islands value the impressive achievements of the APEC initiatives. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation engagement needs to also take into account the development needs of the Pacific Islands which have immense opportunities in industries such as tourism, transport, renewable energy, fisheries, agriculture, mining and ICT. The Pacific Islands are Large Ocean States and we are urging APEC economies to ensure that we work together in protecting our resources and our environment for the sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat looks forward to working with the APEC Secretariat, and other regional economic integration institutions to deliver on our Leaders’ directions and expectations.