REMARKS: SG statement at the Melanesian Trade and Gender Symposium

Delivered by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna

1st Hybrid Melanesian Trade and Gender Symposium

18-19 August 2022

Mr.  Leonard Louma- Director General, MSG Secretariat – Permanent

Mr. Jimmy Rantes- Acting Director General at the Ministry of Commerce  Trade and and Ni-Vanuatu Business, Republic of Vanuatu

Ms. Annabelle Gonzalez, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization

Dr. Erja Askola, Deputy Head of Mission EU Delegation to the Pacific

Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Suva Based Missions

PACP Senior Trade Officials

Representatives of the Private Sector

Ladies and Gentlemen


Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka, and gud morning olgeta. May I congratulate you on this inaugural Trade and Gender Symposium for the Melanesian Sub- Region. This is timely, necessary, and empowering work,  and my sincere thanks goes out to the lead organizer and convener, the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat. We have been pleased to assist and support this initiative, and my big tenk yu tumas  goes out to co-organizers, the International Trade Centre  for your support to this important partnership. And by the way in case you’re wondering why I am wearing a black top, this is Thursday and the Secretariat has joined the global movement on Thursdays in Black in support of ending violence against women and girls.

I also wish to extend my appreciation to all our partners notably the European Union and the World Trade Organization (WTO) who have joined us today. Many thanks for your  unwavering support and positive response for this First Trade and Gender Symposium for the Melanesian Sub- Region.

The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses and in particular Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises across the region, and globally. The Pacific region is also facing the brunt of the pandemic in various ways such as limited finance, slow trade facilitation reforms, standards and limited connectivity exacerbated by the tyranny of distance. It is important to note that a good percentage of MSMEs businesses are female owned or female managed. This makes it imperative to have this dialogue. It will help setthe standard and pace of fuller participation of female entrepreneurs in regional and global trade.

Over the next two days the sub- region will be having honest and pragmatic discussions on the issues impeding the participation of more female entrepreneurs in the business space, I have taken note of the profiles of the speakers and moderators of each of the sessions, and I am pleased to see a good number of them are Pacific experts in their respective fields.

This is a hugely positive sign that its time to look within for the solutions and strategies we are yearning for. As the Blue Pacific we understand our issues well, and we are best placed in articulating the solutions and presenting them to our able partners to assist in implementation. And that ladies and gentleman demystifies the whole concept of Aid For Trade.

The Secretariat stands ready to assist the MSG in implementing the key outcomes of the symposium through existing programmes such as the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy and the SPIRIT. We have our trade adviser, Miss Jill Atieno Juma, deployed with the Secretariat at your headquarters, and we look forward to engaging more closely with you all under this exciting initiative.

I look forward to the day the Pacific will have more participation of MSMEs in regional and global trade and contributing to the overall prosperity of the Blue Pacific Continent.

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.


Link to the Remarks from the Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group

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