Honourable Ministers, Ambassadors and Senior Officials from Member Economies; Representatives of Observers and International Organisations, Invited dignitaries, Ladies and Gentlemen
A very warm greetings to you all from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) on behalf of the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, who unfortunately is unable to join you this week. It is my privilege to deliver this brief statement on her behalf, to communicate a few important messages to all APEC economies.
Let me commence by congratulating the Government and people of Peru for their hospitality and the excellent arrangements for the meetings. We are delighted that three of the PIF Members (Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (PNG)) are active APEC economies and we are elated that in near future, the APEC Chairs will be in the PIF region: PNG in 2018; and New Zealand in 2021. Let me also acknowledge the many APEC economies which are PIF Dialogue Partners.
Over time, APEC initiatives have grown significantly in numbers and in ambition. It is therefore important that we prioritise our efforts towards issues that require urgent attention now. I will highlight three key areas of relevance to the Pacific region for which APEC economies’ attention will be appreciated. They relate to Climate Change, Oceans and Connectivity.
Last year in Manila, the PIF had raised the existential threat that Climate Change poses to the Pacific Islands and had conveyed the Pacific Island Leaders’ message for the need to adopt 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). We wish to thank those APEC economies that have ratified the Paris Agreement, and urge the remaining economies that have not done so, to progress their ratification so that collectively we can implement the Agreement expeditiously.
This week, as the entire world gazed at the Super Moon from the comfort of their homes, some Pacific Islanders evacuated their homes temporarily due to the tidal surge. Let there be no doubt about the real impacts of Climate Change. Climate Change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific. We seek your support in accelerating the implementation of commitments made in the Paris Agreement, as COP22 meetings close this week. The PIF Members have endorsed a Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific to ensure coordinated action on a number of key issues related to climate change and disaster risk management.
Honourable Ministers, our ocean is our common heritage and a resource that is shared by all Pacific islands, and APEC economies as well. In September this year, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their annual meeting reaffirmed that the Pacific region’s most important natural resource is the ocean. There exists a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on the ocean and seas (SDG14) and the Pacific region is showing leadership in the implementation of SDG14. We invite all APEC economies to join in the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its resources.
The Secretary General of PIF, who is also the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, together with other regional organisations, are investing significant resources towards ocean governance and integrated ocean management in the region, under the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, and ensuring approaches to ocean management across jurisdictions that do not undermine existing regional fisheries management arrangements. Noting the global attention on oceans, Forum Leaders issued the Pohnpei Oceans Statement in September 2016, outlining a Course to Sustainability and committing to the shared vision for a secure future for our people based on the sustainable development, management and conservation of our Ocean and its resources.
To ensure that no one is left behind, we must embrace transformative change and action now, for which we call upon APEC economies’ support. For instance, we need to collectively combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in our oceans and make a concerted effort to ensure that the resource owners obtain their fair share of the economic returns from fisheries activities. We also need to harness the development of the Blue Economy in a manner that is sustainable and keeps our islands, ocean and the environment serene for healthier living and sustainable development of industries such as tourism.
The Forum Leaders met this year on the theme “Small and Far: Challenges for Growth”, and made a decision to grow the PIF family to eighteen Members, accepting New Caledonia and French Polynesia as full Members. The Pacific Islands, as consolidated economies are therefore more vibrant now and provides even more opportunities for trade and investment.
As the APEC Ministers focus on Quality Growth and Human Development, and the APEC Leaders address the Challenges to Free Trade and Investment in the Current Global Context, it is important that we highlight the need for APEC economies to be mindful of the development needs of the Pacific islands.
The insular nature of the Pacific islands has kept us disconnected from many markets. However, with the growth in the tourism sector, there is increasing demand for effective transport solutions which provides immense investment opportunities for APEC Economies to venture into maritime and air transport, including ancillary services to support the growth of the tourism sector in the Pacific. APEC efforts on Enhancement of Regional Food Market is commendable. Many of our Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises are seeking innovative partners to grow their businesses to support positive growth, improve food security and also encourage the transition of operators from informal sector to formal sector.
As trade in goods and services broadens in the Pacific, so does the need for innovative business solutions. With the advent of technology, concerted efforts are being made by the Pacific islands to invest in Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) infrastructure and solutions. The ICT sector also provides significant opportunity for APEC economies to invest in the Pacific, including in Professional Business Services.
We encourage the APEC economies to extend the implementation of the Connectivity Blueprint to also include the Pacific islands, and its people. If Asia will indeed be connected to the Americas via underwater cable and air and maritime links, we request that the Pacific islands be made part of such a connected network.
Through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, the Forum Leaders have identified Climate Change, Fisheries, ICT, Cervical Cancer, West Papua, Disability and Harmonisation of Business Processes and Mobility, as the key priorities for regionalism. While a focused approach is taken to support the Pacific islands through regionalism solutions in the above areas, APEC economies are invited to also support the Pacific region address these priorities.
Honourable Ministers, the PIF values the Observer status at APEC and we continue to learn important lessons from APEC experiences. Through globalisation efforts driven by APEC, we are seeking positive growth that is sustainable, inclusive and resilient due to the high frequency of natural disasters. Let me conclude by proposing a challenge to APEC economies as we build towards Papua New Guinea hosting the meetings in 2018. I encourage you to initiate practical engagements between APEC economies and the Pacific islands in the next 24 months so that when the APEC economies meet in PNG in 2018, we are able to attest to a true collaboration with the Pacific islands.
A reinvigorated partnership between APEC Economies and the Pacific islands will be welcome. The PIF Secretariat stands ready to assist in this partnership. The services of the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Network (PT&I) of offices are available to support business to business linkages. We also count on the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) support for real practical business ventures to materialise.
I wish to leave you with the famous saying…. No problem is too big to find a solution for it! We count on APEC partnerships for a more prosperous Pacific region.