Remarks by the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dr Filimon Mamoni
At the Virtual Signing Ceremony of the Host Agreement between the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia.
27 October 2022
The Secretary for FSM Department of Resources and Development, Mrs. Elina Akinaga
The Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Ms. Erja Askola,
Senior government officials,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you all for your presence this morning.
Five months ago in June, we were in this very room to sign two Host Agreements to deploy the PIFS-SPIRIT Trade Advisers to the sub-regions of Melanesia and Polynesia. They have since settled well into their new assignments based at the MSG Secretariat in Vanuatu and Tonga’s Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, respectively.
Today, we will come full circle in completing this process with the important sub-region of Micronesia after the signature of the Host Agreement with the Federated States of Micronesia’s Department of Resources and Development. The Forum Secretariat is confident that the SPIRIT Trade Adviser for Micronesia, Mr. Philip Mercado’s expertise in international trade, customs, and fisheries, and, more importantly, his physical presence in the northern Pacific will bring many benefits to the five countries of Micronesia.
His mission lies in the institutional strengthening of your government agencies and capacity building of your government officials and the private sector in the crucial spaces of investment and trade to boost international trade and, more importantly, the sustainable development aspirations of Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and the Marshall Islands.
Excellencies, Senior Officials
We recognise and value the strategic partnership between the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum through the SPIRIT project, which is one of the three active projects under its Pacific Regional Integration Support (PRISE) program in the Pacific valued at 26.25 million EUR or 60.5 million FJD – the EU’s largest program ever in the region. It has two specific objectives: (1) increasing intra-regional and international trade; and (2) increasing private sector participation to promote regional economic integration.
This intervention is timely. The COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced what we already know about international trade in the Pacific. As import-reliant economies geographically isolated from our major markets, we need to mainstream trade into our national development strategies to sustain our economies in the best, but more importantly, in the worst of times.
Our people need international trade to access goods and services for human consumption. Trade is essential for our survival. We need trade to import medicines we cannot produce to treat our sick and care for our elderly. Our large and small businesses need cheaper inputs that are not available locally to make a decent profit and keep our people employed with incomes to sustain their livelihoods. In essence, we cannot achieve sustainable development without trade.
The SPIRIT project’s key mandate is to strengthen the Pacific governments’ institutional frameworks and empower our government officials to negotiate and implement trade agreements to access export markets for our goods and services. This may include establishing National Trade and Development Committees, National Trade Facilitation Committees, or Competent Authorities to meet certification and compliance standards in trade in fisheries.
Due to our geographic isolation, the SPIRIT project has received requests from a number of Micronesian countries to develop their e-commerce strategies or national implementation plans. We are confident that Philip’s posting in early November to Micronesia will expedite the progress in all these areas.
Excellencies, Senior Officials
I will conclude with these parting thoughts. Trade agreements provide business and investor confidence in the medium to long term to make critical decisions. These include investing in new or expanded business ventures, accessing new export markets, employing people, creating new income streams, and by extension, sustaining the livelihoods of our people.
The EU-Pacific Economic Partnership Agreement is already in force in four countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands. Three more have formally notified their intention to accede to the Agreement: Timor Leste, Tonga, and Tuvalu. A few more have also expressed their interest. The SPIRIT project aims to bridge the gaps between the signature, ratification, and successful implementation of these trade agreements toward the higher objective of realizing the development-related aspirations of our people in the Pacific.
I commend the Director Programmes and Initiatives, Zarak Khan, and his SPIRIT project team in the Trade Unit and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia for concluding this Host Agreement. I congratulate the European Union for the progressive achievement of its development cooperation objectives in the Pacific region.
We look forward to our continued collaboration in the future.
I thank you.