Forum Monthly Review

PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT

September 2002

The Forum Review is a monthly e-bulletin provided by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to inform recipients on Forum events and activities. Views and comments to info@forumsec.org.fj

Recent Events

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) will come into force on 3 October 2002, after the required seventh ratification was received by the depository of the agreement, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

"A new era in Forum economic and trade relations has opened, paving the way for greater economic integration within the Forum region," said the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Noel Levi, CBE. "The PACER will be an important development tool in our efforts to secure a stronger future for our people."

The PACER sets out the basis for the future development of trade relations among all 16 Forum members. The main benefits to the 14 Forum Island Countries are contained in the provisions for trade facilitation and financial and technical assistance. The PACER also gives Australia and New Zealand an assurance that they will not be disadvantaged in FIC markets as a result of any arrangements the FICs may conclude with other developed countries," Mr Levi said.

The separate Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) sets up a free trade area over ten years among the FICs, initially excluding Australia and New Zealand. The PICTA requires six ratifications and currently has four - Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The PICTA comes into force 30 days after it has been ratified by six Forum Island countries.

Three other Forum Island Countries – Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Republic of Marshall Islands – have been given three years, following entry into force of the Agreement, to sign the PICTA. This is due to the special relationship the three share with the United States under the Compact of Free Association. The issue of trade integration was on the agenda of the inaugural Forum meeting in 1971. A Question and Answer PDF file on the PACER and PICTA can be downloaded from the Forum Secretariat website www.forumsec.org.fj. The legal texts of both agreements are also on the website.

Pacific Island countries will be seeking to negotiate a development agreement with the European Union, rather than one based only on market access. This was according to the Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Iosefa Maiava, who made the comment on the eve of negotiations in Brussels beginning 27 September to establish economic partnership agreements with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement.

Last month, the Pacific ACP Leaders endorsed a two-phase approach to the negotiations for an EPA – one that was ACP-wide, and a second for Pacific ACP states. Mr Maiava noted that the Cotonou Agreement sought to reduce poverty, promote sustainable development, and integrate the ACP countries into the global economy.

"Therefore, an EPA should help and not frustrate the achievement of such an objective. It must help our people, not through welfare handouts, but through opportunities to earn incomes by using their resources -- their land, their fisheries, their industries and their business talents," he said. The negotiations for an economic partnership with the EU start on 27 September and will take five years for an agreement that will shape future relations between the EU and the Pacific.

China’s growing trade links with the Pacific Islands were highlighted at an investment seminar in Xiamen city as part of the China International Fair for Investment Trade. The Director General for American and Oceania Affairs in China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, Mr Wang Chao, said the trade reflected the growing partnerships between China and the Pacific Islands.

The trade currently favours the Pacific Islands, with China exporting US$69 million in goods such as textiles, home appliances and food products. China imports about US$130 million in logs, petroleum products, sugar and marine products. In addition, Chinese manufacturing contracts in the Pacific Islands were valued at nearly US$120 million. The Secretary General of the China International Contractors Association, Mr Pang Lu, said he looked forward to further strengthening of the business ties with the Pacific Islands.

The Vice Premier of the State Council for the People’s Republic of China, Mr Qian Qichen, has welcomed closer cooperation with the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum, following talks in Beijing in September with the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Noel Levi, CBE. The Vice Premier congratulated the Forum for establishing a trade office in Beijing and said China will assist Forum Island Countries in attracting investment and tourists from China, as well as developing the export market for Forum products. The trade office officially opens on 11 September.

The meeting also covered cooperation in areas such as the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy, China’s role as a member of APEC and WTO, China’s decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and ways to enhance cultural and economic exchanges. The Secretary General described the meeting as very encouraging.

The sixth annual meeting of the Heads of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) was held in Beijing, People's Republic of China (PRC) on 12-13 September 2002.  The Heads of IPAs discussed ways in which the investment climate in the region could be improved, shared experiences and stressed the need to continue to pursue networking opportunities for the betterment of IPA capabilities and services.  They affirmed the importance of political stability, good governance, transparency and efficiency within both the public and private sectors as basic prerequisites for a conducive investment environment.

New Caledonia, represented by its IPA (ADECAL), attended as an observer for the first time whilst expert assistance was drawn from the Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS).  In his opening address, the Secretary General, Mr W. Noel Levi, CBE acknowledged the potential for foreign exchange earnings through domestic and foreign direct investment in the region.  Noting China's extraordinary economic performance during recent years, he expressed hope that the FICs could also benefit in some reasonable way from outgoing foreign direct investments from China as well as the rest of the world. The meeting agreed to pursue a range of issues over the next 12 months covering Administrative Barriers to Investment, IPA Partnerships, Investor Screening, Collaboration with Trade Offices, Significance of Globalisation and Training.

Regional agencies in the Pacific have been asked to actively promote gender equality in their work plans and policies, so that they can be more effective in serving the region. "Gender policies by themselves will not ensure gender equality," said the Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Iosefa Maiava, following a training workshop on gender equity indicators in Suva for representatives from the ten-member Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).

"That is why we also need to monitor and measure our progress in pushing for gender equality using good indicators, which is where this training comes in. We should be supporting an increased participation by women in the social, economic and political sectors of our Pacific Island communities. But we need to start with our own organisations by incorporating gender equity indicators into our work programmes and budgets," Mr Maiava said.

Members of CROP are the Fiji School of Medicine, Forum Fisheries Agency, Pacific Islands Development Programme, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment, South Pacific Regional Environment Agency, South Pacific Tourism Organisation and the University of the South Pacific.

The Canadian government is offering two grant schemes to help support fisheries associations in the Pacific Islands as well as fish exports to the United States and Canada. The grant schemes are part of Canada’s extensive aid and development programme covering the Pacific region called the Canada-South Pacific Ocean Development Phase II Programme or C-SPOD II. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat chairs the Program Management Committee for C-SPOD II.

The Fisheries Association Development Grant Scheme (FADGS) offers funds up to a total maximum of FJ$16,000, from the scheme to any one Forum Island Country within one calendar year. The separate Finfish Exporters Grant Scheme (FEGS) offers grants up to FJ$6,000 per annum per company, to reimburse expenditure on marketing fish products on the West Coast of the USA and Canada.

The Application Form and General Guidelines will be posted on the Forum Secretariat website http://www.forumsec.org.fj/ from 10 September 2002. Included in the General Guidelines are the criteria that potential applicants can use to determine their eligibility to apply for the grants. For information, contact Mr Joshua Mael, Private Sector Officer, Trade and Investment Division, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Private Mail Bag, Suva; email: joshuam@forumsec.org.fj, tel: (679) 3312600 Ext. 362; (679) 3220362 (D/L) or fax: (679) 3312226.

Pacific delegates joined others at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss development issues. The Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Iosefa Maiava, said globalization provided opportunities but also brought some negative trends including deteriorating terms of trade. Major new regional trade initiatives in the Pacific islands (PICTA and PACER) would help deal to with globalization, and facilitate the integration of small economies into the global trade arena.

Other current concerns of Pacific islands include environment degradation and resource depletion; poor economic performance; high population growth rates; socio-economic inequalities and poverty; health problems; political instability; poor governance; transnational crimes; climate change, climate variability and sea level rise; and transportation of nuclear radioactive materials.

The summit included a special chapter on Small Island Developing States and an emphasis on Oceans in the draft Summit Plan of Action. One of the Pacific’s proposed partnerships for the Summit is an Initiative based on the newly approved Pacific Regional Ocean Policy (copies available), the first ever of such a policy in the world.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat released FJ$20,000 to help with relief efforts in Papua New Guinea, following the recent eruption of Mount Pago volcano in West New Britain province which left a number of dead and injured, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

The assistance was provided under the Regional Natural Disaster Relief Fund that was established in 1975 by Forum Island Countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). The fund is administered by the Forum Secretariat and provides a modest source of financial relief in the wake of natural disasters in the Forum Island Countries

STAFF MOVEMENTS (September)

FORUM CALENDAR Selected meetings

27 Sept Commencement of Negotiations of WTO Compatible NTA’s between the ACP Member States and the European Union, Brussels

24 - 4 Oct Country Visits Fiji & Vanuatu (Pacific Islands Forum Trade Office, Beijing)

25 - 02 Oct Annual Session South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission

3 - 4 Oct CROP Energy Working Group, Forum Secretariat

5 Oct National Authorising Officer/Regional Authorising Officer/Non States Actors Meeting, Forum Secretariat

7 – 11 Oct South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference (SPCPC), Rarotonga, Cook Islands

14 – 18 Oct Forum Island Countries Diplomatic Training, Nadi, Fiji

CONTACT ADDRESS

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Private Mail Bag, Suva, FIJI. Ratu Sukuna Road, Suva. Tel (679) 3312 600 Fax: (679) 3301 102 E-mail: mailto:info@forumsec.org.fj Web: http://www.forumsec.org.fj/ Mirror: http://chacmool.sdnp.undp.org/pacific/forumsec/default1.htm

Forum Secretariat, Suva September 2002

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