Trade and Planning officials from Pacific Islands Forum countries have been on work attachment at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat this week looking at the value of incorporating trade policy frameworks into national development plans to ensure inclusive and holistic approaches to economic growth.
The week-long work attachment responds to direction given by the Forum’s Trade Ministers, who recognize the importance of trade policy frameworks and recommended in 2015 that implementation of these be mainstreamed through member countries’ national development plans and strategies.
The Forum Secretariat has been supporting Pacific Members of the African Caribbean Pacific States (PACPS) group formulate Trade Policy Frameworks (TPFs) for the last couple of years, a process which is intended to empower their integration into regional and global trading economies. Country experiences suggest that effective implementation of the frameworks requires multi-disciplinary skills and a cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach.
It is expected that by the end of this year, a dozen of the 15 Pacific ACPS will have their trade policy frameworks in-place; it is the next step of ensuring effective implementation at the national level that the attachments’ are specifically responding to.
This week, trade officer Bettyrose Buas of Vanuatu, Nauru Ministry of Finance planner Justin Togoran, and Kiribati trade promotion officers, Tentaku Tentoa and Tabanou Kofe, shared their experience and explored tools for the effective implementation and monitoring of trade policy frameworks.
Mr Togoran said the week introduced new and practical ways of mainstreaming finance and trade-related policies into national development plans, considerate of other policy areas prioritised by government.
“This has been a very good initiative by the Forum Secretariat,” Mr Tentoa said. “We have now some very good ideas and I will return to Kiribati and work closely with the trade policy framework implementation committee and national planning; thank you.”
Vanuatu is a success story in its approach to implementing its trade policy framework, through an implementation committee comprising government department directors as well as the private sector and civil society. “We will share our success story in a regional meeting next week but this week has added to my knowledge and capacity to contribute to the intended review of our trade policy framework,” Ms Buas said.
Meeting the officials, Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, emphasised the importance of peer to peer learning and skills exchange between people from across the Forum membership.
“Investing in our future through people centred development is a strategic objective of the Forum Secretariat. We will continue to support south-south cooperation like this amongst our members through knowledge exchange programmes, and development of “knowledge products” based on, and adaptive to the Pacific experience.
The trade policy mainstreaming initiative was designed to inculcate skills of how to manage the complex mainstreaming processes through embracing cross-cutting and holistic approaches and practices.
The Forum Secretariat supports mainstreaming in a range of other areas, including building resilience to climate change and disaster risk, and gender and social inclusion. The attachments included both practical work of applying relevant trade concepts and information or lessons learnt from interventions by sector specialists and experts from the Forum Secretariat, the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) and the Pacific Secretariat (SPC).
“Such multi-agency collaboration and partnership reflects our commitment to capacity building support, and the transfer and sharing of skills and expertise, as well as demonstrating the need for holistic, multi-disciplinary and multi-sector approaches to embracing the opportunities of mainstreaming,” Dame Meg said.
The Forum Secretariat in partnership with relevant development partners has also developed an adaptive guide to assist Pacific ACPS mainstream trade into national development plans and strategies. A final draft of the guide will be considered by Pacific ACP officials and Development Partners at a two-day gathering in Nadi next week.
Trade officials on attachment at the Forum Secretariat this week also had the opportunity to reflect on the guide, to ensure that it is consistent with their national experiences. Entitled the Pacific Manual for Trade Policy Mainstreaming, it was prepared by the Forum Secretariat with the technical support from the European Union-funded TradeCom II ACP Capacity Building Programme, and the Commonwealth Secretariat (through the Hub and Spokes Program).
The manual comes at a time when almost all Pacific ACPs now have national trade policy frameworks and are either in the process of reviewing them to facilitate implementation of a number of recently-concluded trade agreements.
he rate of implementing trade policy frameworks varies among countries. This week’s attachment and the Trade Officials meeting in Nadi next week are good examples of peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platforms covering practical steps for achieving an effective, coordinated and integrated approach in the implementation of trade policy.
The manual is designed to respond specifically to challenges faced in the implementation of trade policies across all national sectors and there is intention to strengthen the peer-to-peer learning potential implicit in it.
It is a practical guide to be used by all relevant stakeholders who play a role in mainstreaming trade in their respective countries, inclusive of private sector and civil society.