Delivered by Dr Filimon Manoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy Workshop
10 November 2021
Hon Faiyaz Koya, Chair Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM)
Lasse Melgaard, Regional Representative to the South Pacific, World Bank Group
Distinguished representatives from Regional and International Organizations,
Excellencies and Senior Officials.
A very good morning, afternoon, and evening to you all, and a warm welcome to the virtual workshop on the development of a Pacific Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy.
Trade Facilitation in a nutshell refers to those measures which help reduce time and cost of trading across borders, whilst ensuring that traded goods and services are of the desired quality.
Trade facilitation measures offer a realistic avenue to increase our region’s competitiveness and to partly offset structural weaknesses such as small country size and proximity to the main markets.
These challenges must be fully explored in the Pacific. For example, the UN 2021 Global Survey on Digital and Sustainable Trade Facilitation reveal that the average implementation of trade facilitation measures by Pacific Island Economies stood at 44 percent, which is significantly lower than the Asia Pacific average of 66 percent.
As demonstrated by the experience of other regions across the globe , for certain trade facilitation measures, collective action offers the best opportunities to deliver suitable results. This is why Forum Trade Ministers agreed to include Trade Facilitation as one of the priorities for regional action of the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020-2025 and tasked the PIFS to coordinate work in this area. In their July meeting, Forum Trade Ministers considered the development of a Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy, and tasked the Secretariat to undertake this work, considering resourcing constraints at the national and regional levels, as well as multilateral commitments under the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement., This work should ensure coherence and complementarity, as well as building on the successful implementation of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.
As reported by UNESCAP during the Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development held in Fiji in December 2020, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on supply chains in the Pacific region – disruption of supply chains on tourism and merchandise trade due to border closures, restrictions to land transport and border crossings, and health restrictions remain an ongoing challenge. As we continue to note , under the prevailing pandemic environment has often caused countries to implement measures that directly or indirectly create unintended barriers to the flow of goods. Supply chain bottlenecks, raw material and component shortages, rising freight costs and infrastructure issues are hampering the distribution of goods to organizations and consumers alike.
This initiative is very timely. Increasing the region’s cooperation ad collaboration by implementing reforms, streamlining policies, and resources mobilization that would reduce time and cost of moving goods across individual country’s borders and of course to gradually recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our collective journey on Trade Facilitation started about a year ago, through a regional workshop jointly organized in October 2020, by the Forum and the Commonwealth Secretariats. There, we learned about the positive and negative impacts on trade facilitation produced by COVID-19, and noted how Pacific regionalism was just making the difference in this area through the establishment of the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.
The benefits of collective action were confirmed by our Caribbean friends, who provided first-hand experience about their regional strategy and its implementation. In concluding the workshop, Members tasked the PIFS to prepare a paper on possible regional approaches to trade facilitation, which was eventually developed and considered by our Trade Ministers in July 2021 and which included the consideration of a Regional Trade Facilitation Strategy.
Building on this work, we are here today to commence developing our regional strategy. I am thankful to the Senior Officials who completed the online survey which will inform the identification of our common challenges and the collective approaches that we wish to take to reduce time and cost of trading across border.
I am also thankful to the World Bank which has kindly agreed to lend its technical expertise to this journey and to provide the necessary resources to bring on board top technical experts who will assist the region under the direction of the Secretariat.
I am hopeful that we will be in the position to finalize and validate our strategy within next 12 months, and to then move onto implementation following a well-tested approach which we are already adopting for the regional initiatives on Quality Infrastructure and E-commerce initiatives.
With that, I thank you very much for your attention and wish you well on your deliberations
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