SECRETARY GENERAL HENRY PUNA
FORUM TRADE MINISTERS(VIRTUAL) MEETING (FTMM)
July 16th, 2021
The Forum Trade Ministers Chair, Honourable Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Government of Fiji, Honourable Forum Trade Ministers and Heads of Delegations, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Heads of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific and their representatives, Heads of Technical Agencies, Observers, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen– I am pleased to join you all this morning for this 2021 Forum Trade Ministers Meeting.
At the outset, allow me to take this opportunity to share my condolences with the Government and people of Fiji and Papua New Guinea for the lives lost during this COVID-19 pandemic. Our thoughts are with you.
Honourable Ministers, we are facing unprecedented times and recovery will not be easy, but we know from experience that our Pacific people are resilient, and we will overcome this collectively.
Our Leaders in 2019 determined that the region required a long-term collective vision and strategy to address our current and future challenges whilst promoting key principles of inclusivity and equality noting the unique culture and traditions of our Pacific.
I am confident that our robust discussions today will contribute to the development of this long-term vision through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
Indeed, to recover from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, trade must continue to play a central role. As reflected in the theme of this meeting, “Building Pacific Economic Resilience and Competitiveness Post-COVID 19” it will require our collective efforts as one Blue Pacific Continent to recover. We are all in this together!
Honourable Ministers, we need to reflect on our Leaders vision for the development of a 2050 Strategy to enable the drive, innovativeness and transformation that is required from regional trade to contribute to the achievement of this vision.
To do this, we need to sustain our businesses and private sector through the pandemic and continue to support their growth in the future.
As a region we recognise the instrumental role technology is playing to keep us connected, and our collective consensus, political will and guidance is needed for a Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.
The strategy envisions the gradual transition of the most isolated and least connected region in the world into a transformative Blue Pacific Digital Economy.
In addition, the development of a Regional Private Sector Strategy is crucial to enable inclusive growth, reliant and sustainable development.
A coordinated and sustained intervention in terms of investment, research and market access is required for our growing agriculture sector and I am encouraged with the progress in terms of our regional trade arrangements in providing mechanisms for our private sectors to utilise.
Political direction is required for our Labour Mobility initiatives both within our region, but also opportunities in other parts of the world.
We must ensure the equitable access to vaccines at this time to allow our people to be able to benefit from these opportunities now and in the future.
Finally, I wish to encourage Ministers to remain engaged in the World Trade Organization to secure a balanced Fisheries Subsidies Agreement that will address the economic development aspirations for the Forum Island Countries.
With these few remarks, I wish Honourable Ministers and representatives well in your deliberations.
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