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2011 FTMM: Secretary General urges region to persevere

Press Release – Pacific Islands Forum

“We must all press on.” These were the words of Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, when addressing the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) held this week in Vava’u, Tonga.2011 FTMM: Secretary General urges region to persevere

Thursday 19th May 2011

“We must all press on.”

These were the words of Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, when addressing the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) held this week in Vava’u, Tonga.

“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,” said Mr Slade.

“Leaders have recognised that trade agreements, fairly and successfully negotiated, will bring essential economic benefits to member countries, particularly through active trade and investment.”

Tackling unique challenges

Mr Slade highlighted the difficulties of Pacific island countries’ vulnerabilities, isolation and distance from world markets.

“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.”

“But, in reality this is the hand dealt for our region; and we simply must pull together to make the best of it,” said Mr Slade.

“We need to continue to move forward as a region and to engage with the world, in particular through trade and all trade opportunities.”

Enhanced intra-regional trade, Mr Slade added, 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.

The Pacific Plan and MDGs

“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,” said Mr Slade.

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.”

PACER Plus

“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,” Mr Slade told Ministers.

PACER Plus refers to a proposed comprehensive free trade and economic development agreement being negotiated between Forum Island Countries and Australia and New Zealand. Trade Ministers received an update on related negotiations.

WTO

Trade Ministers also received an 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,” said Mr Slade.

Pacific Islands Trade & Invest

“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.”

Traditional Knowledge

Mr Slade urged Ministers 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.”

40th Anniversary

The Pacific Islands Forum celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year.

“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,” said Mr Slade. “We have indeed come a long way.

“It is now opportune and 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.”

ENDS

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