Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministers Meeting
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Thursday, 15 November 2018
In the Pacific we take a more expansive view of regional integration that extends beyond simple economic or market integration.
Indeed, our approach to integration is unique – the catalyst being Forum Leaders endorsement in 2017 of the Blue Pacific narrative as the core driver of collective regional action in the Pacific. Grounded in the strength of our collective will, the Blue Pacific narrative emphasizes action as one ocean continent based on our shared ocean identity, geography and resources.
This also provides the basis for understanding the value that our Blue Pacific holds, not only for us as people of the Pacific, but for those who partner with us to support our development aspirations. It is a value that is not only economic, but cultural, geostrategic, geopolitical and environmental. The Blue Pacific narrative underlies our ownership of our ocean space – Pacific people taking control of our domain, which is critical to managing our ocean resources, biodiversity, ecosystems and data, as well as for fighting the impacts of climate change.
On this note, allow me to reflect on a number of regional initiatives in the Pacific:
Protecting and sustaining the economic value of our tuna fisheries is vital and requires the region to work as one. The Pacific is home to one of the last remaining sustainable tuna resource in the world. The importance of the tuna industry and its interconnectedness with the global community cannot be over-emphasised. Ultimately, the global tuna trade is impacted by market access and access issues and the behaviour of consumers which increasingly influences the way the Industry deals with sustainability and social accountability issues of our fishery.
The Parties to the Nauru Agreement, which forms a sub-region of 8 fisheries-rich nations in the Pacific, has become one of the most innovative and effective regional organisations in the world. To exemplify its innovation – the Parties to the Nauru Agreement increased direct revenues for its Member States from US$60 million to US$400 million in its first 6 years of operations – driven by the implementation of the PNA Vessel Day Scheme.
For the Pacific region as a whole, it is unfortunate that some threats to our ocean continent come directly from the APEC region. We all recognise and acknowledge that the Pacific Ocean provides significant economic benefits to APEC fishing industries – Yet the actions of some members of APEC, including the use of harmful fisheries subsidies; economic over-fishing in the high seas; illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and undermining zone based management rights so vital to sustaining our Blue Pacific value, all put the long term viability of our tuna resources under threat.
The meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission will be held in Honolulu in a few weeks. Forum Leaders look forward to all nations belonging to the WCPFC to work together to agree on solutions that benefit all our economies, and not just a few.
In turning to Climate change – it remains the single greatest threat to our ocean continent. Limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5 is vital for the Blue Pacific.
Since 1950, extreme weather events have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific region. These have caused almost 10,000 reported deaths and damages of around US$3.2 billion. In the last 60 years alone, the Pacific Region has experienced more than 2,400 tropical cyclones – an average of 40 cyclones per year. The economic impacts of these disasters are tremendous. The total value of infrastructure, buildings and cash crops considered at some level of risk in the Pacific is estimated at over US$112 billion. Inaction could prove extremely costly.
To this end, Pacific Leaders have endorsed the development of a Pacific Resilience Facility that has been developed on the principle of regional ownership, tailored to the pacific economies unique vulnerabilities and addressing our challenges in a sustainable and predictable manner. It is a Pacific led solution to our address one of our key challenges.
We call on our partners to support our regional efforts and initiatives to progress our resilient development ambitions.
Additionally, I encourage us all to take valuable note of the recent UN IPCC report on 1.5 degrees which clearly demonstrates that fossil fuel economies must be brought to an end if we are to even have chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. We need the full support of the economies gathered here today in making the necessary transition to low carbon development. What is at stake for us as a region is the very survival of our people.
On the matter of collaboration, an opportunity for valuable collaboration between the APEC and the Pacific is that of digital transformation and connectivity. Digital technologies have the potential to act as a catalyst for growth within the Pacific region. The digital age, building on the timely exchanges of information and cooperation, will provide the Pacific region the impetus to overcome challenges faced as a result of our vast geographical span and small island economies.
The dialogue between APEC and Pacific Leaders on Saturday afternoon will focus on this very tenet and I look forward to a robust and constructive exchange for stronger connectivity between Asia and the Pacific, and indeed, across the Pacific towards the Americas.
Honourable Ministers, the Blue Pacific narrative increasingly provides the basis for how Forum members engage with each other, and with those outside the region. Driving these engagements are questions of how we can best protect, sustain and leverage the value of our Blue Pacific Continent.
Currently, a number of APEC economies continue to strengthen their relations in the Pacific region. Whilst these engagements are primarily bilateral, we are also seeing greater willingness to support the collective membership of the Forum, such as in the areas of education, trade and investment – for this, I thank you.
Honourable Ministers, to conclude let me reaffirm that The Pacific Islands Forum values open and genuine relationships, and inclusive and enduring partnerships within our region and beyond. We look forward to strengthening constructive engagements between our economies for the prosperity of our peoples and for the wellbeing of our place and the Blue Planet at large.