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Office of the Chief Trade Adviser for Forum Island Countries

Press Release – Pacific Island Forum

An integral part of the decision of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to commence PACER Plus negotiations in 2009 was the endorsement of the establishment of the Office of the Chief. Trade Adviser (OCTA). The OCTA, based in Vanuatu, was set up to provide … Office of the Chief Trade Adviser for Forum Island Countries
Media Release, Tuesday 29 March 2011

An integral part of the decision of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to commence PACER Plus negotiations in 2009 was the endorsement of the establishment of the Office of the Chief. Trade Adviser (OCTA). The OCTA, based in Vanuatu, was set up to provide independent advice and support to the Forum Island Countries in PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

The interim arrangement with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat under which the OCTA has operated since 29 March 2010 expired on Monday 28 March 2011. The OCTA is now an independent entity that is wholly controlled and managed by the Forum Island Countries.

The PACER Plus negotiations between the Forum Island Countries, Australia and New Zealand seek to promote the economic integration of the parties in a way that supports the economic development of the Forum Island Countries and takes into account the differences among the parties. The Forum Trade Ministers agreed to prioritise the issues of rules of origin, trade facilitation, regional labour mobility, development assistance, and trade-related infrastructure in the negotiations.

The members of the OCTA are the Forum Island Countries, each represented by its Minister for Trade. The Office is lead by the Chief Trade Adviser, Dr Chris Noonan, under the direction of a Governing Board. The OCTA Governing Board has seven members, which are Ministers and senior trade officials selected from the Forum Island Countries.The Board is chaired by the Hon Peter Shanel, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ExternalTrade in Solomon Islands and Lead Spokesperson for the Forum Island Countries on PACER Plus. Also on the Board is the Hon Teima Onorio Vice President of Kiribati and the Hon Lisiate ‘Akolo Minister for Labour Commerce and Industries in Tonga, and four senior trade officials: Mr Klenny Harris from Nauru, Mr Stalin Pedro from Palau, Ms Aida Faumui from Samoa and Mr Marokon Alilee from Vanuatu.

The agreement to commence negotiations on PACER Plus included a commitment by Australia and New Zealand to provide funding for the OCTA of AUD 500,000 and NZD 650,000 per year, respectively, for three years. The Forum Island Countries have been conscious of the need to ensure that funding arrangements do not undermine the independence of the OCTA, and the integrity of its advice.Australian and New Zealand funding for the establishment and the first year of operation of the OCTA was provided under the now expired interim arrangement. No arrangements are in place for future funding of the OCTA. Australia and New Zealand are yet to confirm whether they will provide the funds promised for the second and third years of operation to the OCTA is now constituted.

ENDS

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