Remarks by Dr Filimon Manoni, Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Special Forum WTO Trade Ministers Meeting
18 November 2022
Representatives of Regional Organisations; and
I warmly welcome you all, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, to this Special Meeting of the Forum WTO Trade Ministers. This meeting is in preparation for the Ministerial Roundtable with the WTO Director General (DG), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, later this afternoon. The Roundtable with the DG is organised around the theme ‘MC12 outcomes and the priorities for the Pacific towards MC13’. As you may recall, this would be the second Special Meeting of Forum WTO Trade Ministers; the first was organised in 2020 to consider the candidates for the position of the WTO Director General, a position now held by Dr Ngozi.
You may also recall the decision made by the Forum Leaders during their meeting held in July this year, in which they “encouraged all WTO Forum members to work together to conclude the remaining pillar of the fisheries subsidies negotiations on Overcapacity and Overfishing to protect the sustainability of fish stocks and provide appropriate Special and Differential Treatment for developing and least developing countries.” Therefore, this special meeting provides the opportunity for the eight Forum WTO Members to collectively reflect on the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (FSA) as well as other outcomes adopted at the WTO Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) that took place in Geneva in June 2022.
In view of this, the substantive items on the Agenda of your Meeting this morning will be to consider:
the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (FSA), in terms of a way forward on the ratification process and the second wave of negotiations; and
the other MC12 outcomes, in order to endorse the Pacific region’s priorities for the post-MC12 work, as we move towards preparing for MC13
Ministers will also consider a Draft Ministerial Statement that your Senior Officials have considered and cleared, would be issued as the outcome of this meeting. The Ministerial Statement which would espouse key messages from this meeting would assist Ministers in their engagement at the Roundtable as well as guide their work in Geneva.
Following this special meeting, you would be aware that the DG will be hosting Ministers for a Talanoa session from 11:30 to 12:30. This provides an important opportunity for Ministers to engage with the DG while she is in the region, to get to know her and raise some issues on how the WTO can better support regional trade efforts as well as register concerns that Ministers may have and have this clarified before the Roundtable.
The Talanoa session will then be followed by a Working Lunch which will welcome brief observations / remarks on how the multilateral trading system (MTS), WTO work and the newly adopted FSA, can contribute to the vision of Forum Leaders for the Blue Pacific Continent as outlined in the 2050 Strategy adopted in July 2022.
The Ministerial Roundtable will then be held from 3:00 to 5:00, and the Ministerial Statement of this Special Meeting could be used to guide the interventions of Ministers on the way forward on Fisheries Subsidies and other Pacific priorities in the post-MC12 work, in the lead up to MC13.
After the Ministerial Roundtable, Ministers and their Delegations will also witness the signing of the fifth Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between PIFS and WTO. The MOU will renew the longstanding cooperation between the region and WTO to provide trade-related technical assistance and capacity building on WTO issues that is beneficial for the economic and social development of Pacific Island Countries.
With the intensifying of work in Geneva on post-MC12 work and possible outcomes for MC13, PIFS will work with the WTO and other interested organisations to develop TA opportunities to build the capacity of Pacific officials to be well equipped to support their Ministers in making decisions at MC13. Specifically on the second wave of fisheries subsidies negotiations, the region could benefit from a Forum WTO Officials Meeting in which the Forum WTO Members could strategise further on how Overcapacity and Overfishing disciplines and appropriate special and differential treatment could be recommended for adoption by MC13.
Honourable Ministers, given the important discussions before you, I wish to assure you of the continuing support of the Secretariat in providing technical support to you throughout the Ministerial sessions today and the post-MC12 work ahead as we prepare the Pacific region for the WTO’s Thirteenth Ministerial Conference likely to be held before March 2024.
I wish you well in your deliberations today. Thank you.