Remarks by the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor
3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum
“Openness and Cooperation, Sharing and Development”
20-21 October 2019
It is always a pleasure to be in Apia and it is an honour to address you on this occasion, which celebrates the special relationship between the Pacific region and the Peoples Republic of China. May I take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of Samoa for their warm hospitality and excellent arrangements for this meeting and to the Government of the Peoples Republic of China for their support.
Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have made it clear on several occasions that they place great value on open and genuine relationships, and inclusive and enduring partnerships within our region and beyond. The intensifying geopolitical engagement currently playing out in our region means that there are many opportunities for investment and partnerships with an increasing number of partners.
This puts the Pacific region in a strong position from which to be both more considered and assertive with its priorities for engagement. [As we have heard during the opening comments] individual states of the Pacific are leveraging this increased interest to help pursue their national development aspirations. As Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, I wish to briefly touch on what might be some opportunities for the Pacific region as a collective in its engagements with China.
To help frame these opportunities, I think it is pertinent to return to the 2013 Pacific Plan Review and the emphasis it placed on the persistent vulnerability and dependencies of the region as the key challenges to our development ambitions. Indeed, in today’s context where we face a climate crisis and intensifying geopolitical engagement with a range of partners, these challenges are particularly acute.
For the Pacific region and indeed the Pacific Islands Forum, at the very heart of our collective engagement efforts with our Forum Dialogue Partners is our increasing strength and will to craft our own destiny. Integral to this, is the opportunity to forge partnerships and relationships that will help address the challenges we face in the Pacific; the opportunity to build on our collective blue pacific identity to leverage an active and equal footing in shaping the priorities for a mutually beneficial partnership with our partners, including China.
Excellencies, we are not ignorant to the heightened evolution of partnership relationships in the Pacific region and the advantages and disadvantages these offer. As we work together to forge stronger relationships, we must ensure that these partnerships effectively deliver for our people in a fair and efficient manner that is built on mutual trust and respect.
As we look to secure our future in the Pacific through the development of a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, what are the potential opportunities and challenges for strengthening engagement with China? Firstly, the highest priority for our region is climate change mitigation and adaptation. Leaders of the region see the climate change crisis as the greatest threat to the security and wellbeing of the region and demand greater ambition from all States to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees under the Paris Agreement.
To just meet our Paris targets is no longer enough – we need more ambition. The Forum’s recent Kainaki II Declaration calls for all countries to enhance the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions especially in regard to carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidies and a just transition from fossil fuels. China, as the world’s second largest economy, can be an important ally for the Pacific region in the UNFCCC process by taking a lead in escalating its ambition level and its commitments under the Paris Agreement – a valuable opportunity to demonstrate commitment to addressing our region’s greatest threat.
There are opportunities for genuine cooperation, sharing and development aimed at reducing the vulnerabilities of our Blue Pacific region. In 2018 China accounted for 32% of global investments in renewable energies, and leads the world in installed capacity of hydropower, solar and wind energy. Indeed, our Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific calls for low carbon development and seeks technical and financial support from development partners to help Pacific Island Countries.
Another opportunity for investing in Pacific resilience is through the Pacific Resilience Facility, which fills a gap in resilient development in the region by enabling investments in small scale community initiatives. This can have a tremendous impact amongst grassroots communities in the Pacific by strengthening their preparedness for climatic events in the future.
As I already mentioned, collectively the Pacific has much value to offer partners, including ecological resources, culture, and increasing geopolitical and geostrategic value through its stewardship of the World’s largest ocean. Genuine and mutually beneficial partnerships can enable the region to leverage this value as the basis for reducing our dependencies over the longer term. In this way, one thing I have observed and been encouraged by in our region are examples of joint ventures between Chinese investors and Pacific Island governments and companies which have ensured majority ownership remains with the Pacific and provided for valuable knowledge sharing and technology transfers. For example, Kiribati has joint ventures with Chinese companies for both its tuna processing plant and purse seine fleet. In both instances, the majority stake sits with the Government of Kiribati. This is enabling Kiribati to begin enhancing its economic autonomy and resilience.
The shared value of our Blue Pacific continent also provides a number of opportunities for enhancing connectivity between China and Pacific economies. Indeed, this year’s APEC meeting in Chile provides an opportune time to consider how the Blue Pacific Economy can leverage its geographical position between Asia and Latin America for greater access to markets, technology, financing, and infrastructure to help drive our resilient development ambitions.
Further, China has been the fastest growing emerging tourism market globally and for the Pacific. The Pacific’s unique cultures and environmental beauty provide China with one of world’s most sought-after tourist destinations right on its doorstep. There remains further potential to enhance connectivity across tourist destinations and create a truly Blue Pacific experience for Chinese tourists.
To conclude, as our region looks forward to 2050, ensuring strong and genuine partnerships will be key to enabling a secure and prosperous future for the Blue Pacific. We look forward to continuing dialogue and building openness and cooperation, sharing and promoting development opportunities that are mutually beneficial.
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