Pacific Trade Officials Prepare for World Trade Organisation Negotiations

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Fiji (May 23, 2018) – Senior officials of Pacific trade, fisheries, agriculture and commerce sectors are in Suva this week for a collective reflection on the outcomes of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11) and to evaluate their approaches and strategies on a way forward as they prepare to engage in the post MC11 negotiations in the period 2018-2019.
Four officials from each of the six Pacific WTO members namely Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu are attending this meeting. One of the key outcomes of MC11 was the Ministerial Decision on the Fisheries Subsidies, a political mandate that directs WTO Members to conclude negotiations on a Fisheries Subsidies Agreement in 2019 or the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12).
Fishing subsidies significantly contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor said the Pacific region greatly appreciated the regional-focused technical and capacity building assistance that the WTO Secretariat was providing.
“Pacific countries are increasingly concerned about the significant challenges on our fisheries sector, in particularly its sustainability when considered in the context of fishing subsidies. The region considers the negotiation of multilateral rules on fisheries subsidies in the WTO as an important contribution that would complement regional and national efforts in addressing some of the multi-dimensional issues facing the fisheries sector in our region,” Dame Meg said.
The WTO and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat signed a four-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) Monday (May 21, 2018); as development partners, the MOU contributes to ongoing technical support to Pacific Islands Forum Members.
The Forum Secretariat and the WTO Secretariat have been collaborating annually for similar regional workshops to enhance the knowledge of Pacific officials on the various WTO issues under negotiations, and to support countries’ implementation efforts of their current WTO obligations.
Speaking at a public lecture Monday (May 21, 2018), Dame Meg said on the multilateral front, the WTO had progressed a more liberalised trade environment, in recognition of which, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders agreed to establish a regional representative office in Geneva to enable the Pacific island countries to have a voice at the global level, to defend their interests.
“As a region, we know we can achieve more if we work together – a principle which Leaders have reaffirmed in endorsing the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. And throughout our history, the Pacific Islands Forum has long understood the importance of having arrangements in place that would ensure that we as a region can engage in trade – whether within our own region, or with world – in ways that benefit our membership and our people,” Dame Meg said.
“And why shouldn’t we? After all, we lay claim to much for which the world desires, above, within, and below our great Pacific Ocean. The onus therefore is on us to support the Pacific Islands Forum to leverage these resources, as the basis for negotiations regarding global trade and economic integration.”

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