PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
DRAFT OPENING STATEMENT
SECRETARY GENERAL, DAME MEG TAYLOR,
VIRTUAL PACIFIC REGIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON TRADE FINANCE
10 March 2021
• Mr. Shaheen Ali- Permanent Secretary of Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and Chair of the Forum Trade Officials Meeting (FTOM)
• H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary -General Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS)
• Ms. Pamela Coke- Hamilton- Executive Director International Trade Centre (ITC)
• H.E Mr. George Hoa’au Acting Director General MSG
• H.E. Sujiro Seam- Ambassador and EU Head of Delegation for the Pacific
• Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners Suva based Missions
• Senior Officials in your respective positions and capacities
• Representatives of the Private Sector
• Development partners
• Ladies and gentlemen
I welcome you to the first Pacific Regional Symposium on Trade Finance. At the outset, allow me to acknowledge the co-convenors of this event, the International Trade Centre and the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat for their support in bringing this event to fruition.
I also wish to extend my appreciation to all our other partners notably the OACP Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the African Union Commission, Afriexim Bank, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), European Union and many others who have joined us today for their unwavering support and positive response to the Secretariat’s call to participate in this timely regional Trade Finance Symposium in support of our Forum Island Countries.
The objective of this Symposium is to bring participants together to discuss and strengthen platforms for engagements between the Pacific’s private sector and global experts joining us today to enable resilient recovery through innovative and accessible trade finance. The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Micro- Small-Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) globally.
It is important for development partners and financial institutions to understand the uniqueness of every geographic region, including that of the Pacific region. A key challenge that we continually face in the region is the lack of information to capitalise on private sector opportunities in trade financing, which also need to be contextualised to our specific characteristics.
Take for instance the issue of accessibility of finance – the threshold to access finance for a bankable project with the European Investment Bank (EIB) programmes is Euro 5 Million. This threshold makes it impossible for most entities in the Pacific’s private sector including a vast majority of MSMES to be eligible. What other insurmountable hurdles are facing our region’s private sector in accessing grant and concessional finance that must be urgently rectified? We must respond to these questions and conduct a thorough examination of the Pacific’s financing landscape to chart a more efficient way forward.
South-South Cooperation and in particular intra-ACP exchange of best practices is very timely at this event. The Pacific is keen to learn from the African and Caribbean experiences. Regrettably, banks and other financial institutions lean more towards prioritizing large companies to minimize risks, and consequently the MSMEs are left behind. Indeed, the adoption of friendly and flexible financial regulatory frameworks to access finance is crucial to boosting Pacific trade performance regionally and globally and to recover from COVID-19.
More importantly, there is also a need to change the narrative of bankable projects, towards more MSME friendly frameworks and policies, with simplified application procedures and appropriate collateral requirements to enable Pacific businesses to develop projects and access finance. I am particularly encouraged to note that some of the national banks, central banks, international financial institutions and related agencies participating at this event will present their programmes supporting MSMEs in the Pacific.
Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to reiterate the Secretariat’s unwavering commitment towards boosting the Pacific private sector through innovative, sustainable, and accessible trade financing mechanisms. For our part, the Secretariat looks forward to rolling out more training programmes throughout the region after this Symposium and in partnership with International Trade Centre and other training institutions in the Pacific in the coming months.
I wish you well in your deliberations and look forward to the actionable recommendations which will be put forward from this Symposium.
I thank you.
READ // LISTEN Mr. Shaheen Ali- Permanent Secretary of Fiji Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and Chair of the Forum Trade Officials Meeting (FTOM)
READ // LISTEN H.E. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary -General Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS)
READ // LISTEN Ms. Pamela Coke- Hamilton- Executive Director International Trade Centre (ITC)
READ // LISTEN H.E Mr. George Hoa’au Acting Director General MSG
READ // LISTEN H.E. Sujiro Seam- Ambassador and EU Head of Delegation for the Pacific
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