Fiji calls for a new Pacific trade pact

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the COP23 Fiji conference in Bonn, Germany on the 12th of November 2017. COP23 if organized by UN Framework Convention for Climate Change. Fiji holds presidency over this meeting in Bonn. (Photo by Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto). Photo: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SUVA, Feb 15, 2020, RNZ. The Fiji government says the Pacific needs a new trade agreement to boost economic growth for its island states. Addressing the Pacific ACP Forum Trade Ministers meeting in Suva this week, chair Premila Kumar said for too long the Pacific has been “surviving” the various challenges in the wake of global trade uncertainties, Radio New Zealand reported.

The meeting’s theme is “Pacific Trading Nations: from Surviving to Thriving” and Ms Kumar said although globalisation and trade present new opportunities, the region is struggling to compete on a global scale.

“Despite challenges linked to changing climate, frayed international markets and threats to the multilateral trading system, let us tap into our cultural knowledge and solidarity to design trade pathways for Pacific trading nations to transition from surviving to thriving,” she said.

Premila Kumar, who is also Fiji’s Trade Minister, said in order to fully exploit the economic opportunities provided by international trade, the Pacific needed to enter in the realm of thriving.

The theme, she said, echoed the Forum Leaders’ aspirations for the region – “peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity, so that all Pacific people can lead free, healthy, and productive lives”.

“We last met in 2014 and much has changed since,” she said. “Since 2015, the Pacific ACP region has had a cyclone every year and other disasters including droughts and floods during the 2017 El Niño period.

“The effects of climate change are negatively impacting our economies, and private sector including micro, small and medium enterprises.”

Ms Kumar urged members to build resilient trading infrastructure that would enable quick business recovery after any natural disaster.

She said the current trends on trade agreements led to sub-regionalism, creating multiple pockets of trading blocs instead of integrating Pacific ACP states.

Ms Kumar said the global trading environment was unstable.

“The primary victim is the credibility of the World Trade Organization and established multilateral trading systems.”

“The main concern for us is the implications of the lack of progress on fisheries subsidy negotiations to deliver sustainable development goals.”

Ms Kumar urged members to advocate strongly and collectively engage with like-minded countries to secure a common position and build coalitions to ensure that the Pacific’s interests were not compromised.

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