Speech: Pacific Islands Forum, 18 May, Vava'u, Tonga
Speech: Pacific Islands Forum, 18 May, Vava'u, Tonga
2011 FTMM, SG Introductory Remarks, 18 May, Vava'u
FORUM TRADE MINISTERS MEETING
18-19 May 2011
Puataukanave International Hotel,
Vava’u, Kingdom of Tonga
by Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga, Hon. Lord Tu’ivakano
Acting Governor of Vava’u, Lord Sevele
Deputy Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Hon Tom Marsters
Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Lau Afioga Fonotoe Nuafeseli Lauofo
Honourable Ministers of Forum countries responsible for Trade
Dignitaries of Vava’u
Senior Officials of the region
Friends and colleagues
Malo e lelei, Talova lava.
On behalf of the participants, I want to thank the Government and people of Tonga for hosting this important meeting of Forum Trade Ministers and for the courtesies and warmth of our welcome to the Kingdom, in manner so typical of the Friendly Isles. I want in particular, before you all, to acknowledge the much-appreciated cooperation and support the Secretariat has received throughout from the Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries, Hon Lisiate ‘Akolo and his Ministry officials and the generous arrangements and facilities provided, allowing this unmatchable viewing of Vava’u’s splendid sites and harbor.
2. Honourable Ministers, senior officials have given consideration to a range of trade-related issues of vital importance to the future of our region. Their recommendations form the basis of your meeting and deliberations and, no doubt, your consequent advice to Forum Leaders when Leaders meet later this year. As always, the Secretariat stands ready to provide to Ministers and all member countries what support we can, and in accordance with your requirements and guidance.
3. The ongoing global economic situation and instability will continue to affect and to compound the problems confronting the Pacific region. Other global forces, of climate change and sea-level rise, and ever more frequent and severe disasters, will add to the challenges. The isolation of Pacific island countries and distance from world markets make trading more difficult, not any easier. But, in reality this is the hand dealt for our region; and we simply must pull together to make the best of it. We need to continue to move forward as a region and to engage with the world, in particular through trade and all trade opportunities.
4. Trade offers an important link to economic development and growth for Pacific island countries. Enhanced intra-regional trade, if pursued properly and equitably, offers every prospect for stronger economic growth, with benefits for all Pacific communities, especially in the deepening of regional cooperation and integration.
5. It is of particular importance, I believe, that Forum countries continue to engage extensively amongst each other, and as a region in the international arena, in pursuit of objectives aspired to in the Pacific Plan. As you well know, Forum Leaders adopted the Pacific Plan in 2005 as the master strategy to strengthen regional cooperation and integration. The Leaders vision for the Pacific Plan is for a region of peace, democracy, economic prosperity and good governance, a region that places high and special value on its human and cultural diversity, natural resources and the fundamental rights of citizens. The Pacific vision echoes fundamental values of the Millennium Declaration – of freedom, equality, respect for nature and shared responsibility. As such, the Pacific Plan serves as the foundation for the region’s efforts towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
6. Honourable Ministers, in that broader context I believe your deliberations will be of particular significance to our region and communities. This meeting affords the opportunity to take stock of progress on key trade-related issues and to come to firm decisions in the best interests of all member countries and of our region, as we strive for the broad and ambitious strategies espoused by Forum Leaders. Leaders recognise that trade agreements, fairly and successfully negotiated, will bring essential economic benefits to member countries, particularly through active trade and investment. We must all press on.
7. The results of your work in the next two days on PACER Plus will provide the basis for constructive consultations and needed directions for the ongoing negotiations.
8. Another important item on your agenda is the update from the Pacific Islands Forum Representative Office to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, with respect to its current operations and long-term plans. This is a matter of some priority because our Geneva Office plays an important role in serving the interests of the Forum island countries and observers to the WTO.
9. Equally, the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest Offices located in Auckland, Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo all play important roles in attracting business and investments to member countries and to our region. With increased activities in areas like aquaculture and fisheries, agriculture, tourism and mining, and in other industries as well, it is vital that these Pacific trade offices continue to play that fundamental bridging and advisory role to encourage and support investments, especially in Forum island countries. This agenda item on the matter will serve to highlight progress made to strengthen and improve the performance of all four Pacific Islands Trade and Invest offices.
10. Also for the consideration of Honourable Ministers, is the vital need to safeguard the traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights of Forum countries. Ours is a region rich in culture and tradition, closely linked to the environment – a distinctive environment of land and ocean - and our Pacific “mana” – a concept of deeply engrained, and often shared, traditional awareness and self esteem. These are rights and possessions of inestimable value; they must be protected. This meeting will provide you an update on the region’s current work in this area, with emphasis on the outcomes of the recent Pacific Heads of Intellectual Property Meeting on Regional Trademarks Administration.
11. Honourable Ministers will also be provided with an update on the Forum Secretariat’s trade-related work programme, including the conclusion of the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme and the related stock-take of trade facilitation activities underway in Forum island countries.
12. As I close, let me draw attention to an important milestone being celebrated this year – that of the Pacific Islands Forum’s 40th Anniversary. Four decades ago, our founding Leaders had the foresight and wisdom to seek strength in numbers and converge as a region to tackle shared challenges. We have indeed come a long way. It is now opportune, it is now most appropriate, to look back on the journey of 40 years and the challenges encountered and overcome; on the challenges which linger, and those to come. At this meeting we seek from you, Honourable Ministers, as we shall from Forum Leaders come September, inspiration and guidance on the way forward for our region and our communities.
13. It is an absolute privilege to be in this abundantly beautiful part of the Pacific and, again, we thank the Hon Prime Minister and the Government of Tonga, and the people of Vava’u for allowing us to be here.