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Pacific development partners and beneficiaries of the Hub and Spokes Programme, an aid-for-trade initiative, ended a three-day regional planning workshop on Wednesday, with appreciation of the programmes tangible impacts on the ground. Pacific Island Country beneficiaries developed a new framework that is likely to guide the implementation and management of a successor Programme.
The proposed framework aims to support sustainable and inclusive development through technical assistance and capacity building in international trade.
The Hub and Spokes programme is a multi-donor aid-for-trade initiative of the European Union, the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific states) Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF); its current phase ends in August this year (2018). In the current format, designed a decade ago, the Hub and Spokes Programme has been hailed by development partners and beneficiaries as an “effective and model” Aid for Trade Project.
The workshop was jointly organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Forum Secretariat; the programme across the ACP Group is supported by the European Union.
Speaking at the workshop closing, Mr Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation for the Pacific, thanked the programme partners for the excellent cooperation since 2004, when the Hub & Spokes programme was initially launched.
"Over the years, the programme made an important contribution by assisting several Pacific Islands countries develop their first trade policy framework and by facilitating continuous on-the-job training in Pacific trade administrations,” said Mr Wagner.
With the current project coming to an end in 2018, the Regional Planning Meeting proposed that a successor programme should build upon current best practice and incorporate new and emerging trade-related issues such as e-commerce into a future work programme. The framework should also be localized into the Pacific context, to capture and contribute to regional priorities relating to trade and development.
'The regional planning meeting was effective in identifying the strengths of this unique trade related technical assistance programme that has benefited many Pacific Islands Countries,” Stephen Fevrier, the Regional Trade Policy Advisor (Hub) based at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, said.
“Beyond identified strengths, the meeting explored how a successor programme can best respond to new and emerging needs, in line with needs of beneficiaries and against the backdrop of a changing global trade environment.”
The Programme is currently implemented by a network of 24 advisers across in the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, seven (7) of whom are based in the Pacific. Human Capacity building and transfer of skills, has been a signature impact of the programme since inception. Globally, 4,280 people (of whom 1,783 people are in the Pacific Countries) in both public and the private sectors have been trained in trade policy related areas.
“The Capacity building efforts have enabled countries to leverage negotiating abilities, assist in development and implementation of effective and evidence-based trade policies and strategies. This has been a productive few days reflecting on the uniqueness of the programme, and ascertaining emerging issues and formulating best steps forward,” Teddy Soobramanien, the Head of Section of the Hub and Spokes Programme said.
The majority of the Programme’s work in the region so far focused on national trade policies and strengthening both human and institutional capacity related to trade agreements. The proposed model framework emphasises a paradigm shift towards actual implementation of the various trade policies, supporting the development of the private sector, especially Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and embracing emerging trade-related issues, such as e-commerce, trade aspects of a blue economy and the development of creative industries (and the implicit intellectual property rights).
Roreti Eritai from the Government of Kiribati said the Programme was critical for smaller economies like Kiribati, which recognises trade as key to a developing trade sector. Eritai said “the Hub and Spokes Programme was very important for institutional strengthening and human resources capacity-building.”
Jacinta Matulino from the Government of Samoa said Samoa benefitted immensely from having a spoke based in Apia considering the consistency in technical support for policy development and guidance around implementation. Samoa has committed to absorbing the programme into its national budget to ensure sustainability.
In remarks by Shiu Raj Director for Programmes and Initiatives at the Forum Secretariat, the Hub and Spokes Programme has ensured “the delivery of fair and impartial analysis and advice.
“This detached and unbiased analysis remains critical to achieving beneficial outcomes to the continued trade analysis and further negotiations as agreements are implemented in the region. Independent advice on critical matters will continue to be a need for the Pacific ACP states, at the domestic level and at the regional level,” Raj said.
“The programme has contributed to the region’s efforts at implementing Leaders’ Decisions as well as regional priorities established under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. In this view, Advisers have delivered ad hoc support and technical backstopping on Oceans, Fisheries, Business Harmonisation, and also engagement with the Private Sector.
“As you are aware, the leaders in their meeting in 2017 have agreed to the Blue Pacific narrative which once again requires a whole-of-region approach to the various work that we engage in including in trade and investment. This is another area where the Hub and Spokes Programme has already commenced contributing towards.”.
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