PACIFIC ISLANDS DIGITAL TRADE DIALOGUE
4 March 2022 at 10:00-12:30 (Fiji time)
WELCOMING REMARKS BY HENRY PUNA, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM
Ms. Regina MacKenzie, USAID Acting Deputy Director to the Pacific,
Government, Donor, and Private Sector Representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A warm Bula Vinaka and welcome to the first Pacific Islands Digital Trade Dialogue.
2. E-commerce is one of the priorities of the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020-2025, given its potential to narrow distances and promote diversification of our economies.
3. COVID-19 has further accentuated the importance of E-commerce, with online retail sales increasing from 16% to 19% of total sales in 2020 according to the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development.
4. To put this into the pacific context, stories such as that of Albert Mokis Ahabh who, off the back of the 90-minute intensive workshop by Pacific Trade Invest Australia digitised his store and sold over 100 pieces of clothing online in 2 months, really demonstrate the transformative power of E-commerce for our generation. The same hold for Ms Leilani Reklai, the publisher and editor of the Island Times newspaper in Palau and one of the beneficiaries of the Pacific Trade Invest Social Media for eBusiness scholarship, who was able to increase her website traffic by 70% thanks this program.
5. As reported by the Pacific Trade Invest Network, during the COVID-19 pandemic 35% of Pacific businesses pivoted to sell more online, with 79 percent of businesses now using online platforms. These trends have further stressed the importance to become well-equipped to face the new digital era to avoid falling behind.
6. The Pacific E-commerce Initiative, coordinated by the Secretariat is our regional commitment to build digital trade readiness. Under the umbrella of this Initiative, Forum Members, Partner Agencies, and the Donor Community have come together to identify and implement priority regional actions to enhance the Pacific E-commerce Ecosystem.
7. These regional actions are now included in the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, which was approved last year by Forum Trade Ministers after comprehensive consultations secured buy-in from all our regional and international partners. The alignment of our partners’ activities to the Strategy’s priorities has already produced better coordination of our collective actions, which is eliminating duplications, promoting new partnerships, and ensuring better value for money, thus making the Strategy a truly historic achievement for the Pacific region.
8. The Secretariat is tasked to coordinate implementation of the Strategy including by monitoring its implementation, facilitating resource mobilization, the onboarding of new partners, and establishing a regional governance framework. Together with our partners, we have already mobilized more than five million US dollars to support digital trade and would welcome pledges of support from new development partners, including the United States.
9. Today’s Digital Trade Dialogue was crafted to accelerate implementation of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap by exploring avenues to mobilize American multinationals.
10. The Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap identifies several areas where multinational companies engaged in the E-commerce policy areas can act as enablers of the Pacific digital journey.
11. From payment systems to cross-border and last-mile logistics, to E-commerce skills, progressive partnerships between multinational companies and Pacific enterprises can address some of the most binding constraints which prevent our entrepreneurs from becoming digital trade champions.
12. The panels which we have convened today have been tasked to reflect upon practical projects suitable to operationalize these progressive partnerships, from the private sector to the private sector.
13. It goes without saying that donor partners remain essential to ensure sustainability of these partnerships. I wish therefore to encourage our donor community to take good note of the opportunities which will be discussed today and consider supporting their transformation in sound development realities.
14. It would be remiss of me to close these remarks without expressing my sincere gratitude to the United States Agency for International Development for accepting the Secretariat’s proposal to mobilize the Alliance for eTrade Development as part of their enhanced regional Indo-Pacific engagement.
15. A sincere word of gratitude also goes to the staff of the Alliance for eTrade Development, to the Secretariat’s Geneva Office, Trade and Private Sector Teams, and our Pacific Trade Invest Network for organizing today’s event.
16. I wish you well in your deliberations and looking forward to the projects which will emerge from today’s discussions.
17. I thank you
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY, Mar 4, 2022