Remarks delivered by Mr. Noah Patrick Kouback
addressing the audience at Competition Days event in PAPEETE, 23 JANUARY 2023
H.E Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia
Hon. Yvonnick Raffin, Minister in Charge of the Economy
Mrs.Johanne Peyre, President APC
Representatives of the Competition Authorities of Australia, Fiji and New Zealand
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ia ora na (iorana) Bonjour, let me convey on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Mr. Henry Puna a belated Happy New Year and best wishes to you all. It is my honour and pleasure to join you all today for the very important event about competition or Te mau mahana tata’ura’a matete under the high patronage of President of French Polynesia His Excellency Edouard Fritch and Minister in charge of the economy Hon. Yvonnick Raffin.
COVID-19 pandemic and the threat to competition in the PICs
Indeed, competition seeks to maintain a competitive market and in regulating anti-competitive behaviour by dominant suppliers. Pacific businesses that are most impacted are micro, small and medium sized entreprises (MSMES). Their survival is essential to the development of competition in the Pacific in addressing consumer welfare and long term economic growth.
Business activity in the Pacific is dominated by State-Owned Entreprises (SOEs) and a small number of multi-national businesses. In PICs, markets for many goods and services exhibit little or no competition, so dominant suppliers face little or no pressure to improve their products delivery or pricing.
The impact of COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine and geopolitical tensions created an unprecedented increase in fuel and food prices. To enable consumers to afford their daily needs, Pacific governments are encouraged to put in place measures to preserve competition for the sake of people wellbeing.
Competition Laws of Pacific Island Countries
Both Fiji and Papua New Guinea already have competition laws in force and in the process of updating those. Samoa enacted its first general competition law in 2016. Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have both national policies on competition and consumer protection. The ongoing challenge is the implementation of these policies. However to ensure a phase approach implementation, PICs are encouraged to take measures in supporting MSMES with the view to maintain competitive domestic markets.
Competitive Domestic Markets under the 2050 Strategy
With the endorsement of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, Leaders agreed to put an emphasis to people centred development. The area of competition will be considered under the pillar 4 of Resources and Economic Development where the focus will be on MSMES who make up the majority of businesses and are the means by which competition emerges in goods and services markets.
Sharing of best practises in the PICs
Pacific Governments can share their experiences in supporting the survival of MSMES by temporarily relaxing obligations (such as the duty to avoid insolvent trading) that are designed for the protection of investors and the public. Tahiti may want to share its experience with other Island Nations in collaborating with the Secretariat in organising a regional competition day.
Regional Trade and Economic Initiatives
The Secretariat is currently implementing a number of regional trade initiatives under the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy 2020-2025 such as Pacific Quality Infrastructure, Ecommerce, Kava, Labour Mobility, Trade Facilitation, and technical assistance and capacity building for Pacific ACP States. It is also important to inform the meeting that the Secretariat is also developing a Pacific Roadmap for Economic Development (PRED) ; as well as a Regional Private Sector Strategy that will include competition provisions
The Secretariat would very much welcome any support from French Polynesia in the implementation and development of these regional trade and economic priorities let alone the sharing of best practises in competition area.
To this end, I conclude my remarks here by reaffirming the commitment of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to working collaboratively with French Polynesia to further our collective objective of supporting the economic and social development of Pacific Island Countries.
I also want to express my appreciation to l’Autorite de la Concurrence for the arrangements made for this event as well as your support in ensuring Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat participation.
Thank you, Merci beaucoup, Mauruuru (maruru)