Trade officials from Pacific Islands Forum member countries met today in Suva, ahead of Friday’s Trade Ministers Meeting.

The meeting focuses on regaining lost growth opportunities during the pandemic and strengthening resilience in member economies against future shocks.

Forum deputy Secretary General, Esala Nayasi told the Forum Trade Officials Meeting, as a region, they need to work towards stronger coordination, strengthened coherence, minimal duplication of efforts and effectively capitalise on opportunities for economies of scale, where possible.

“We operate in a global strategic environment that is grappling with multiple challenges and shocks, while also recovering from a global pandemic.

“Resources are limited. Capacities are stretched. But opportunities continue to emerge, particularly for us in the Pacific region.

The real immediate challenge for us is how we can turn this increasing geostrategic interest in our region into sustainable economic opportunities for our people and our economies,” Nayasi said.

In an increasingly interconnected world – our unilateral success as individual nations are no longer a given. We must build on each other’s strengths to create trade and economic opportunities and open markets – yet to be explored, he said.

“It is also worth flagging that the meetings this week come at an important juncture in this region’s history, as we prepare to initiate the Review of the Regional Architecture and finalise the 2050 Strategy Implementation Plan.

“The questions we need to asking ourselves are: How can we use existing mechanisms and structures to strengthen intra-regional and inter-regional trading relations? Who are the regional actors on trade assistance in the Pacific and how can we ensure the effective use of resources and minimise duplication?

In terms of market access, is there a role that our Trade and Invest Offices can play in stepping up our engagement and advocacy on collective trade and economic matters with their respective Host Governments? How can we strengthen our footprint in existing and emerging markets,” Nayasi emphasised?

Jim Armistead, Chair of the Forum Trade Officials Meeting said the regional supply chain remains a critical agenda that this meeting could consider a regional approach to counter this matter.

“I note that the focus of most of our economies for the coming years is to regain the lost growth opportunities foregone during the pandemic using the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy 2020-2025 as a tool to progress our aid for trade needs.

“It is crucial for increasing competitiveness and strengthening resilience in our economies against future shocks to facilitate greater market access opportunities and be attractive destination for investments in the region.

“We have a tight schedule ahead of us, and I seek your cooperation in considering these agendas together and agree on the set of recommendations for our Ministers consideration,” said Armistead.

The Forum Trade Ministers meeting will be held on Friday.