REMARKS: SG Puna at the 2nd PTI Independent Advisory Board Meeting

Opening remarks by Henry Puna,  the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum

2nd Pacific Trade Invest Independent Advisory Board Meeting

5 December 2022, Sydney, Australia

Colleague Members of the PTI Independent Advisory Board.

Ms Michelle Macdonald

Ms Vani Nades

Mr Ian Clarke

Mr Fletcher Melvin

Trade Commissioners and the Tokyo Pacific Island Center Director.

My colleagues who travelled with me from Suva.

Allow me this opportunity to frame our discussions this morning.

At the outset, I must say that it is wonderful to be with you all in-person. In my experience, the value of in-person dialogues far outweighs that of virtual engagements as we will always have fuller and richer discussions in person.

And indeed, judging by the preliminary discussions we have had in the lead up to this Board Meeting, I am confident that we will have a robust exchange over the next day and a half, and together, set a strategic direction for our Pacific Trade and Invest Network, moving forward.

To our Trade Commissioners, thank you for all the work that you have done over the course of 2022, and indeed during the pandemic.

I recognise that for some of you, have been stuck at post for a prolonged period and are only now having the opportunity to travel home to visit with family. I thank you for your ongoing work and commitment.

To my colleague Advisory Board Members, let me reaffirm again my appreciation for your time and interest in taking up this strategic advisory role to my Office. I thank you for the robust conversations yesterday evening and I look forward to working closely with you as we move this Pacific Trade and Invest Network forward.

Each of you here in this room this morning brings a specific skillset, industry-expertise and experience that we can harness collectively to contribute too and strengthen how this network functions and delivers for the people of the Pacific.

In having this collective discussion today and tomorrow, we must also remain continually aware of the strategic environment that we operate in today.

The Pacific region has not had as much collective leveraging power and agency as it does today – however, the key will be how we are able to capitalise on this increased strategic interest in the interest of our people and our region.

Already, we have had political interest from partners to strengthen trade and investment ties with the Pacific, including, Korea, Singapore, and the United States. These are all opportunities to expand our network and our brand.

We need to constantly think about how we can raise the visibility of our Pacific Trade and Invest brand and use opportunities – particularly the political platforms that we support as the Pacific Islands Forum, to advance the work of this network and its visibility.

For instance, 2023 will see Fiji host the PALM Inter-Ministerial Meeting; and our Pacific Leaders will travel to Korea for the inaugural Korea – Pacific Leaders’ Summit, but to name a few. How can we use these political platforms to attract solid investment missions for our countries? Can we explore the opportunity of parallel missions to leverage off the high-level political platforms?

These are the strategic discussions we should be having at this level.

Yes, we have before us an ambitious agenda for the next day and a half but I also do not want to waste this very valuable opportunity for a strategic discussion on some of these very pertinent issues.

The Pacific Trade and Invest Arm has a very unique role to play – particularly in the achievement of our Leaders Vision in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.

This network is responsible, primarily, for expanding market access opportunities and building our collective investment profile.

The role of trade commissions and the advisory board will be critical in shaping the development of the Pacific Roadmap for Economic Development – this roadmap, which responds to the 2050 Strategy, will frame how we as a region ensure that we are all working towards our collective prosperity as one region. One Team. One Pacific Trade and Invest Network.

With those very brief words, I thank you all again for joining me here and look forward to our discussions over the next day and a half.

[ENDS]