20 March 2012
MSG Trade and Economic officials Meeting (TEOM)
Vale Ni Bose, GCC Complex Suva Fiji
Trade and Economic Officials, and other Government Officials
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I wish to extend to you all a very warm welcome and thank you all very much for taking time from your busy national schedules to come and participate at this meeting of Trade and Economic Officials.May I also express our appreciation and gratitude to our Chair for setting a very positive tone for our meeting in the next two days and to the Government,the officials and the people of Fiji for hosting this Meeting, and for the wonderful arrangements for the meeting as well as the courtesies afforded to all delegates.
2. Ladies and gentlemen, we are meeting a month after some parts of Fiji were affected by destructive floods which also sadly led to loss of lives. On our behalf may I extend our condolences and respects to the Government and people of Fiji, in particular the families of the deceased. Our prayers are with youat this time of great sadness and may the Good Bless you and endow you with hope and promise for full recovery and restoration of your properties and livelihoods.
3. Ladies and Gentlemen the TEOM is an important constituent body in the MSG’s decision-making process. In the past, the TEOM have focused heavily on trade issues because of the MSG Trade Agreement and other regional and multilateral trade priorities that our members have been involved in. This has now evolved with an increasing demand from our Members to place an equal emphasis on our regional economic issues. In this connection, I am pleased to note the good mix of officials from both the trade and economics representing our Governments who are here this morning. Trade and economic issues are closely linked and both bear on cross-cutting issues in the social and economic development of our people. The current Global Debtcrisis that isaffecting the financial markets and economies in Europe is expected to trigger a global recession. In this context, it is critical that our members are able to foreshadow its impacts on their economies and institute necessary macro-economic policies to mitigate its impact. It calls for an immediate strengthening and deepening of inter and intra MSG trade. It also calls for a visionary road map to build and enhance the resilience of our economies in the next decade.
4. I am pleased to note that over the last two Meetings you hadmade significant progress on key trade and economic outcomes and mandates of our Leaders. You will recall that at the last 18th MSG Leaders’ Summit held here in March 2011,Trade and Economic issues had featured quite prominently in the Leaders’ communiqué.
5. On trade issue, in considering the implementation of the MSG Trade Agreement and Roadmap for Future Integration, the Leadersendorsed the recommendations for a broad vision on the future MSG Economic Integration. This includes work towards a vision of closer economic relations for the possible creation of a common market through the expansion of the MSGTA to cover services and labour mobility. The same mandate also provides for a more detailed analysis of strengthening the existing FTA and moving towards a customs unions and common market including work on strengthening the current MSGTA through improving its implementation, addressing inconsistencies with other trade agreements, review of the MSGTA legal text and MSGTA architecture to provide its future expansion into trade in services, labour mobility and other issues. Today, before you is a specific agenda item on the MSGTA Review where you will consider the report of the recent review aimed at improving the legal text of the MSGTA and assessing options for an appropriate architecture to accommodate the future expansion of the agreement into Services, Labour Mobility and other relevant sectors.
6. Another key mandate from the Leaders summit include the consideration of the architecture and guiding principles of the Trade InServices and Labour mobility specifically on the Skills Movement Scheme (SMS). I am pleased to note that the MOU on SMS including schedules of offers from all Members has been finalized by the TIS Subcommittee and is now before you for consideration and endorsement. The Chair of the MSG Sub-committee on Trade in Services will be presenting the Meeting Outcomes for your consideration.
7. The 18th Leaders communiqué also considered the importance of enhancing kava trade internationally where the Leaders endorsed the strategy for enhancing this trade. I understand a regional Kava conference has just been concluded in Port Vila and some of you had participated in that meeting. I note that Vanuatu intends to present an information paper during your deliberations.
8.On economic issues, this Meeting will also be considering an agenda on the Principles for enhancing fiscal management in Melanesia. This discussion has been brought forward following the endorsement of both TEOM and SOM in 2011. Whilst our members have made a lot of progress in fiscal management in recent years, there remain key challenges of strengthening macroeconomic tools to maintain sustainable economic growth. The Principles sets forth some general guidelines for members to adopt to ensure the delivery of macroeconomic stability vital for sustainable growth. The Deputy Secretary for National Planning of Fiji and Chair of the MSG Sub-committee on Economic and Social Development will be presenting the Principles on behalf of its members.
9. Another key item you will be considering is the MSG Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Coastal Fishery and Aquaculture Development. Whilst in-shore or coastal fishery is becoming important in terms of food security and economies and for our coastal communities, there remains limited availability of specialist expertise and resources in this area. We need a collective approach to build our capabilities and resources. The MoU provides the mechanism for this. I am pleased that Fiji’s Acting Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forests and Chair of the Fisheries Technical Advisory Committee (FTAC) is available to present this MoU on behalf of the members of the Committee.
10. The final item you will be considering is Fiji’s experience in the management and conservation of its forest resources. At the TEOM Meeting on 29-30 June 2011, Fiji had proposed the inclusion of forestry conservation, management and development in this TEOM meeting. I understand that MSG members have their own national forest policies moving towards addressing vital areas of forest conservation, management and development. We can use Fiji’s experience to map out how we as a region can tackle the common challenges and opportunities that may exist in sustaining our natural ecosystems that provides basic resources for our very survival. The meeting may also wish to consider how best we can tackle MSG forestry issues in the context of our decision making machinery. As countries with almost all the forestry resources amongst the Pacific Islands, it isimportant that we are able to reach consensus on issues concerning our forestry conservation and development. I am therefore grateful that Fiji’s Conservator of Forests is here to present the paper.
11. I can go on and recite to you your many achievements and the extent of your agenda but what purpose will that serve other than to bore you. I suggest therefore that I end here to allow the meeting proper to proceed and to wish the Chair and delegates all the best in your deliberations.
Thank you, Merci beaucoup, Oleti, Vinaka, Tankutru and Tankiutumas.