Tanoa International Hotel
10 – 11 June 2016
Senior Officials from Forum Members
Representatives of Non-State Actors including the private sector and non-governmental organisations and civil society, and academia
Chief Trade Adviser
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Sixth Non-State Actors (NSAs) Dialogue Workshop on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus.
- Forum Trade Ministers at their meeting in October 2015 recalled the Forum Leaders’ commitment to the PACER Plus as an instrument for promoting regional integration in the Pacific and assisting the Forum Island Countries (FICs) to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.
- The objective of this Dialogue is to build on the discussions that have taken place in previous Dialogues on PACER Plus; provide an update on the status of the PACER Plus Negotiations; and engage in an interactive discussion on the issues covered in the negotiations including the anticipated implementation issues.
- This Dialogue will also consider a draft report on impact assessments currently being undertaken with the objective of ensuring that the coverage of these assessments is comprehensive. An agreed approach for the effective completion of the impact assessments on PACER Plus will also be discussed, an issue on which we invite your considered views.
- Trade negotiations between the PACER Plus Parties have intensified in the past months in order to conclude discussions on the comprehensive agreement as mandated by Forum Leaders. This Sixth NSA Dialogue is critical in ensuring that the agreement is responsive to the needs of Forum Members, particularly to the development needs of the FICs.
- These NSA Dialogues began in 2010, immediately after the launch of the PACER Plus negotiations, and the discussions have evolved over time and assisted in shaping the PACER Plus negotiations. I am pleased to note that we have many familiar faces who have participated in previous meetings and I count on your constructive contributions over the next two days.
- Our focus will be on the progress achieved in these negotiations, and discussions on how the remaining issues can be addressed for a high quality trade, investment and development arrangement that will enable the member countries to achieve positive growth and productive employment, with positive economic and social outcomes for their citizens.
- We need to take into account the implementation of the agreement and the various roles of entities directly involved in executing the agreement at national and regional levels. I strongly encourage robust discussions on the aspirations of the private sector, who will be responsible for effectively undertaking the preferential transactions secured through the PACER Plus. The interests of civil societies who represent the communities and the vulnerable amongst us, including the youth, women and job seekers needs to be taken into account. Different stakeholders will be affected differently by the opportunities and challenges, and modalities contained in the agreement. Let’s shape a PACER Plus that responds truly to our needs, and one that can be implemented soonest to benefit our people.
- The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser has been supporting the FICs in the PACER Plus negotiations, and we thank the Chief Trade Adviser for his leadership as well as to all hardworking staff for the assistance being provided to the negotiators. Our joint efforts need to continue in support of a PACER Plus arrangement that is comprehensive and inclusive, and one that supports regionalism. It needs to complement the public policy process that reflects the aspirations of the Pacific as envisioned by the Leaders under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
- I am pleased to inform that the PIFS – NSA Executives Committee, chaired by the PIFS Secretary General and attended by heads of agencies such as PIANGO, PIPSO, PANG, Oxfam, etc., have met periodically over the past few months to strengthen engagement amongst the NSAs in the lead up to this Dialogue.
- Our deep gratitude goes to the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for their generous support. We are grateful for the funding provided for two NSA representatives from the private sector and civil society from each of the fourteen FICs, as well as for the regional trade NSA representatives. Engagement with NSAs needs to be an ongoing commitment. It needs to be deeper and wider than before.
- Your input goes towards informing a holistic and cohesive trade and development policy in the region, which will be conveyed to the Ministers for their consideration. I encourage you all to make the most of this NSA Dialogue Workshop. The diverse representation and numbers at this Dialogue should engender frank and productive debate. I wish you well in your deliberations.