CAPTION: Prime Minister of Samoa, the Honourable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
The 2013 Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) was officially opened today in Apia, by the Prime Minister of Samoa, the Honourable Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Forum Trade Ministers will consider a range of priority trade matters affecting the region, including engagement in trading arrangements within the region, and with trading partners outside the region.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of technical and financial assistance. “The benefits we are seeking from the trade arrangements being negotiated would have little chance of being achieved without adequate technical assistance and financial support provided through development cooperation partnerships and Aid for Trade initiatives,” the Prime Minister stated.
Forum Trade Ministers will consider trade-related work programmes, including engagement in the World Trade Organization (WTO), activities of the Pacific Islands Trade and Invest network, Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property related initiatives, PACER Plus negotiations, the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy, and trade and health linkages.
The Prime Minister highlighted the transport challenge for the Pacific. “I know that the focus of your work in this meeting is on market access, product development and trade promotion. However, I consider it quite important to mention a challenge that is quite simply inseparable to efforts to increase and promote trade. This is the issue of transportation and in particular sea freight transport.” He further highlighted that in many instances the present freight rates in the Pacific are now at prohibitive levels for exports from the islands to be competitive.
In her introductory remarks, the Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Ms Andie Fong Toy highlighted the many constraints to increasing and developing sustainable trade in the Pacific islands. “Most Forum Member economies are not only small but also isolated, therefore we need practical and innovative policies and strategies to take advantage of the economic opportunities that can overcome these challenges. By increasing trade we can contribute to the reduction of poverty,” Ms Fong Toy stated.
The Forum Trade Officials met earlier this week and discussed an array of trade related issues pertaining to the region and produced key recommendations on each of the agenda items for Ministers’ consideration.