Opening Remarks delivered by Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Esala Nayasi
at the Pacific ACP Trade Officials Meeting
3 October 2023, Suva, Fiji.
I am honoured to welcome you all to this 2021 Pacific ACP Trade Officials Meeting this morning.
It has been two years since your last meeting, and much has transpired both regionally and globally.
We are a region in recovery, in the wake of a global pandemic.
We continue to grapple with the impact of the Ukraine-Russia war – a conflict that has no visible end in sight, and which continues to have repercussions across the world, including through higher food and energy prices.
And most importantly, we continue to contend with a climate emergency that increasingly takes its toll on all sectors of our economies.
Indeed, the challenges before us are wide-ranging and complex but they are not insurmountable.
What it will require of us, is stronger coordination and coherence so that we can effectively capitalise on opportunities for economies of scale and develop regional value chains, where possible, so that we strengthen our export base towards higher value-added products from the region.
This is not new. In fact, the very foundations of the Pacific Islands Forum was that of economic cooperation.
Our founding fathers recognised that our future lay, not in our individual capabilities, but in our collective economic capabilities.
Fundamental to this very principle is our ability to trade – amongst ourselves and with external partners. To unlock the potential of trade and development we need to address supply side constraints, reduce trade facilitation bottlenecks and building efficient and resilient supply chains
In an increasingly interconnected world – our unilateral success as individual nations is no longer viable.
We must build on each other’s strengths to create trade and economic opportunities and open new and unexplored trading markets.
This specific forum is unique – as Pacific ACP Countries, you have the flexibility and the opportunity to discuss frankly and openly your collective ambitions as Island Countries.
You will discuss the value of exploring and expanding trading opportunities with a range of other partners beyond our traditional partners.
It is also an opportunity to consider and discuss key issues for further discussion in our broader Forum Trade Officials Meeting, including labour mobility and connectivity.
It is also worth flagging that the meetings this week come at an important juncture in this region’s history, as we prepare to for the Review of the Regional Architecture.
As such, this meeting is a prime opportunity for you, as Members, to share your thoughts on the ongoing value of maintaining the Pacific ACP grouping as it is currently framed – or whether, there needs to be consideration of broadening the name of this grouping to reflect more accurately the issues that now comprise your meeting agenda.
How can we use existing mechanisms and structures to strengthen intra-regional and inter-regional trading relations? Who are the regional actors on trade assistance in the Pacific and how can we ensure the effective use of resources and minimise duplication?
In terms of market access, is there a role that our Trade and Invest Offices can play in stepping up our engagement and advocacy on collective trade and economic matters with their respective Host Governments? How can we strengthen our footprint in existing and emerging markets.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These questions and reflections will not be answered today and in this meeting. But I do hope that they will prompt further consideration and discussion for the remainder of the week.
Indeed, if there is one thought that I would hope to leave with you all this morning, it is this – regional trade is where “the rubber hits the road” for the concept and ideals of pacific regionalism.
Regional trade is regionalism in practice and in fact, can be seen as the litmus test of our willingness to work with each other and support each other towards our collective development, because it requires of Members to consider and cede an element of your respective sovereignties for our collective good.
It is in this light that we must recognise and continually invest in our ability to engage and trade, both amongst ourselves and with our partners.
With those few words, I wish us all well for the discussions today and indeed, the rest of the week.