Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor



Vice-Chancellor's Speech for ADB-WTO-DFAT-USP joint Conference on Aid for Trade in Asia and the Pacific: Promoting Connectivity for Inclusive Development

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President

Acknowledgement of those attending 

  1. Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank, Mr. Bambang Susantano;
  2. His Excellency John Feakes, Australian High Commission;
  3. Her Excellency Halia Haddad, Acting New Zealand High Commission; 
  4. Mr Shaheen Ali, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, Government of Fiji;
  5. Professor Yasuyuki Sawada, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank and Adjunct Professor, Pacific Centre for Economic Policy and Modeling, the USP.
  6. Cyn-Young Park, Director, Regional Cooperation and Integration Division, Asian Development Bank.
  7. Michael Roberts, Head of Aid for Trade Unit, World Trade Organization.
  8. Robert Jauncey, Regional Director, Pacific Sub-regional Office, Asian Development Bank
  9. Shishir Priyadarshi, Director, Development Division, World Trade Organization
  10. Shiu Raj, Director, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
  11. Distinguished presenters and panelists

Who from USP are attending

  1. Professor Arvind Patel, Acting Dean, Faculty of Business and Economics.
  2. Dr. Rup Singh, Acting Director Pacific Centre for Economic Policy and Modelling, USP
  3. Staff and students of the University
  4. Invited guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen. 

Welcome and Introduction

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Good morning and a very warm welcome to the University of the South Pacific (USP).  The timing of this conference is very good for us as the University is in high spirits.  Last week the Fiji Sevens displayed their inspirational magic and mastery of sevens rugby beating the world’s best teams and lifted the Hamilton Cup.  This win has much relevance to our discussion today as it should make the Pacific more confident that if it can beat the world’s  best in sevens rugby with very limited resources, they can also aim high in the development sphere.

Also the President of Fiji launched our year-long celebrations on Monday 5th February.  I invite all of you to take part in the various activities planned for this year

As you may know, this two-day Aid-for-Trade Conference is jointly organized by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT, Government of Australia) and the University of the South Pacific. The purpose of this conference is to launch the ADB’s biennial Aid for Trade Report 2017 in Asia and the Pacific and to disseminate its key findings. The conference will also discuss the challenges and modalities of dealing with Aid-for-Trade issues affecting in the Pacific region. 

The 2017 Aid-for-Trade report was co-financed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and produced in collaboration with the World Trade Organization and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. 

The primary objective of Aid-for-trade is to facilitate and develop the domestic capacities of countries through investments in hard and soft infrastructure, finance, productivity, innovation and technology to create and enhance trade.  This complements initiatives by countries to engage in meaningful and inclusive trade to promote human development and global welfare. 

It is very clear that the international trading environment has become highly volatile and uncertain, but more importantly, countries are concerned with the speed at which changes are occurring, globally. This represents escalating pressure on our limited ability to compete with more powerful trading economies, and as such, raises risks to our economic welfare—compounded, of course, by Climate Change that poses existential risks to our countries.

Against this backdrop, discussions surrounding connectivity, technology and smart-trade facilitation possibilities remain important dimensions of our engagement with the rest of the world. It may be noted that both international experiences of countries and economic theory argue that trade promotes economic success and we thank the WTO, the ADB and DFAT for allowing us to host this important conference at the University. 

We envisage that the findings of Aid for Trade report and the deliberations of this conference (which will be released later as a communique) will usefully inform regional trade agencies, policy makers and the private sector on how best the Pacific can engage with the rest of the world. This will surely benefit trade-based growth policy for the region.

Purpose

Given the twin objectives of this meeting, shortly we will launch the report in the Pacific and disseminate its key findings. Following this, the rest of the conference is dedicated to discussing the key and relevant issues for promoting trade and economic development in the region from a variety of perspectives as the conference brings together a wide range of stakeholders, including policy makers, academics, researchers, development partners, regional and international trade agencies, the private sector and civil society. These specialists will provide dynamic responses to the different aspects of Aid-for-Trade issues and challenges. 

This important conference will also support the regional conversation going forward to the next Global Review in 2019. It is fitting that the conference is being hosted by the University of South Pacific, in view of the partnership established between the ADB and the USP for high quality and policy relevant exchange and production of knowledge. At this juncture, let me highlight the key areas of collaboration and progress that the University has made with the ADB.

The University’s partnership with the ADB dates back to 2009 when the Government of India provided the University a grant of US$1 million through ADB’s Regional Technical Assistance for the “The Creation of the Pacific Information Superhighway with The University of the South Pacific Network”. This project helped expand the USP’s Information and Communication Technology network across its regional campuses through the installation of the I-Direct system. The Technical Assistance resulted in the development of a soft loan proposal to improve access to tertiary education in the Pacific through the development of two new campuses in Kiribati and Solomon Islands and improved connectivity of regional campuses. A soft loan of US$19m from the ADB’s Multi-Tranche Financing Facility for Higher Education in the Pacific Investment Programme was approved in mid-2012 to support the USP enhance access to higher education in its 12 member Pacific Island Countries by improving physical environment and learning programmes. 

The first tranche of the project financed the construction of a new 3-storey building for the USP Kiribati Campus. The new campus was completed in late 2015 and was officially opened by the President of Kiribati on 3 November 2015. 

Similarly, Tranche 2 led to an allocation of US$15.4 million for the construction of the new USP Solomon Islands campus to accommodate the growing number of students, especially those from remote areas of the country. The project provides modern teaching facilities, classrooms, an ICT studio, library, science laboratories, student cafeteria, medical center, dormitories, faculty offices, recreational areas and administrative facilities. 

Currently, the University is working closely with the ADB on its bid for a Grid Connected Solar Photovoltaic System for Renewable Energy Production and Self-Reliance of the USP Campuses. This is a US$23 million proposal which is expected to significantly reduce the University’s carbon footprint on selected USP campuses, including Laucala, Emalus, Alafua, Kiribati, Tonga and the RMI. 

In around mid-last year, an agreement to boost knowledge collaboration between the two organizations was signed covering the following core areas of collaboration: Support for Pacific Centre for Economic Policy and Modelling; Pacific Update Conference; Public Administration; Pacific Education and Research Network/Education; and Renewable Energy. The agreement represents the ongoing long-term spirit of cooperation between the USP and the ADB, providing enhanced cooperation and partnership through a mutually agreed joint work programmes. The University continues to enjoy a very good relationship with the ADB and we anticipate enhanced collaboration for the development of the Pacific Islands in the near future. 

Concluding Remarks

The University appreciates the collaborations with our development partners like the ADB, Australia and New Zealand, WTO, and other donor and CROP agencies. We have achieved many milestones together through such engagements, and I greatly appreciate ADB’s continued support to the University. 

I wish you all a very successful conference with excellent outcomes.

Vinaka vaka levu, thank you. 


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