DIRECTOR PROGRAMMES AND INITIATIVES – OPENING REMARKS
PACIFIC QUALITY INFRASTRUCTURE INITIATIVE REGIONAL WORKSHOP
02 September 2019
Mr Shaheen Ali, Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Government of Fiji
Mr Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation, EU Delegation for the Pacific
Mr Deryck Omar, Chief Executive Officer of CROSQ
Distinguished representatives from DFAT and PTB
Senior representatives from international, regional, and national Development, Trade, and Quality Infrastructure Organisations,
HE Ambassador Mere Falemaka,
HE Ambassador Sumbue Antas,
Senior Forum Officials and Private Sector Representatives,
A very good morning,
It is a real pleasure to welcome you all to the first Pacific Forum on Quality Infrastructure.
I think this is probably the first time in at least a decade that senior Pacific representatives come together to discuss and strategize on Quality Infrastructure. And yet, this issue is so vital to the ability of our region to achieve economic resilience.
Quality Infrastructure is a very broad concept, which embraces a variety of areas. From a trade perspective, however, this concept essentially refers to the institutions, public and private, tasked to incentivise the production of high-quality goods and services, and to prove to the world that high-quality has been achieved.
Now, if a good or a service can be proven of high-quality, it can not only be more easily exported, but it can also fetch a higher price, generate better employment, and lift more people out of poverty.
From this point of view, Quality Infrastructure is not only a trade facilitator, but also an enabler of that shared prosperity that our Forum Leaders have tasked us to achieve.
Despite its primary importance, Quality Infrastructure systems are still underdeveloped in the Pacific. From the supply side, Quality Infrastructure institutions such as standards, metrology, accreditation, and conformity assessment bodies are either absent or too weak to push quality throughout our value chains. From the demand side, the quality culture of our citizens is still too weak to act as a pull factor for our producers.
In the meantime, global demand for demonstrable quality is on exponential rise, from safe and organic agriculture, to sustainably harvested forestry and fishery products, to ethical manufacturing, to the application of smart technologies to traditional products, to green tourism services.
Whereas sheer quality is abundant in the Pacific, the region is often lacking the ability to transform its natural attributes in something that the world can appreciate and price. Producing our vegetables with nothing but water and hard-work does not warrant an organic label; building our tourism bungalows with nothing but forestry products doesn’t warrant the designation as sustainable destination.
International appreciation can only be gained by aligning our production to international standards and by establishing mechanisms for this alignment to be recognised. It is up to national and regional Quality Infrastructure Systems to support our producers to identify the most suitable standards, and to demonstrate compliance with those standards.
Pacific Quality Infrastructure Systems are underdeveloped. This Forum’s main is objective to identify their most severe deficiencies and to collectively agree on how to address them.
The PIFS has spent about to two years build a first-class international network of experts in support of this tremendous task. This workshop represents the coronation of this effort, and I wish to personally thank each and any of our resource persons to agree to freely devote their time, and sometimes financial resources, to support the Pacific region in its endeavour to build a stronger Quality Infrastructure.
Senior Pacific Representatives,
It is now up to you to make the most of the expertise that we have gathered here today. It is an intensive week the one we have ahead.
For most of us, the first task will be to fully familiarise with the concept of Quality Infrastructure, and to understand how this concept can make a practical difference to our daily lives.
The second task will be to leverage the international expertise gathered here this week to identify the most pressing challenges for our Quality Infrastructure Systems, and to agree on priority actions for their removal. Bearing in mind that no agreement will be meaningful unless you fully own and lead the workshop’s determinations
A special word of thanks goes to our development partners, especially Australia, Germany, the EU, and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF). We would not be here today if it was not for their commitment to support our initiative, through both technical and financial assistance.
It is really encouraging to see such a diverse set of partners coming together to support this Forum as well as its future determinations. On the latter, a special word of gratitude goes to the EIF which has already provided financial resources for the formulation of a regional Quality Infrastructure project building upon the outcomes of this workshop. I do hope that by the end of this week, further support may be forthcoming.
Before introducing our chief guest, PS Shaheen Ali, I wish to extend a sincere word of appreciation to our Geneva Office. One of the duties of this Office is to leverage international expertise and resources to promote transformative initiatives in the region. This workshop is the result of their relentless work, and I sincerely thank you, Ambassador Falemaka, for bringing this Quality Infrastructure back to the Pacific.
Colleagues, I wish you well in your determinations, and I am now giving the floor to our chief guest, PS Shaheen Ali, for his opening remarks.