COVID-19 vaccination at the forefront of Trade recovery from pandemic – SG Puna to Forum Trade Officials




8 July 2021


Mr. Shaheen Ali, Chair of the Forum Trade Officials Meeting

Heads of Delegations and Representatives of Forum Member Countries

Representatives of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific

Representatives of Technical Agencies and Development Partners


Ladies and Gentlemen


Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka- good morning. It’s perhaps a symbolic moment to be joining you today from the Auckland offices of the Forum’s Pacific Trade and Invest global network.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this Forum Trade Officials Meeting.

As I had mentioned to the Pacific ACP Trade Officials yesterday, I would have preferred that we were meeting in person. But I know we all recognise the unprecedented circumstances we are in. Part of that, for our Blue Pacific, and the entire world, has involved the shift to online, ongoing dialogue on our collective priorities.

Things have changed considerably since our last meeting in February 2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic across our region, and its immense impact on our economies, and in particular our tourism, fisheries, services, sectors, and overall trade. I know building back from those impacts, many of which are still evolving, is an important key focus for your discussions.

I am also heartened to note that despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 we have managed, as a region, to continue to progress the priorities as articulated in the Pacific-Aid-for-Trade-Strategy. Most notable is the significant progress on E-commerce and Quality Infrastructure regional initiatives.

I also note the important initiatives progressed, including Trade Finance, Connectivity and Services, and work towards deepening Forum markets.

Excellencies, Senior Officials, at the forefront of realising some sort of normalcy in our operating environment is the need for the people of our Blue Pacific to be fully vaccinated.

Indeed, this can only occur when the region ensures access to affordable vaccines, through timely and equitable rollout, to power our collective recovery.

We must work together to capitalise on and leverage the positive gains we have seen in 2020, including strengthening remittance flows to the Pacific Islands region.

We need to strengthen labour mobility frameworks holistically, addressing its social dimensions including worker welfare and wellbeing.

Excellencies, Senior Officials, in your deliberations today, I know you will continue to maintain the significant strides we have collectively made, including comprehensive discussions, and hopefully consensus, on a Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.

Your specific guidance is also needed on several action-oriented proposals. This includes:

a Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy;

the development of a Regional Kava Strategy, and

a regional Pacific Observatory on market intelligence and market information.

At the multilateral level, I encourage you all to have solid discussions and reach considered and ambitious positions that will ensure a balanced Fisheries Subsidies Agreement that provides strong disciplines for harmful fishing subsidies, and supports the development interests of Forum Island Countries.

Chair, Excellencies and Senior Officials, with those very few remarks, I thank you and look forward to your productive deliberations. –ENDS

OPENING SPEECH, by SHAHEEN ALI, FIJI, Chair of the Forum Trade Officials Meeting


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