Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Speech by Hon. Peter O’Neill, CMG, MP Prime Minister at the University of the South Pacific, Laucala Campus, 9 July 2018

Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council, University of the South Pacific, Mr Winston Thompson;

  • Excellences;
  • Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum;
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Staff and Students of the University of the South Pacific and other campuses viewing through live streaming;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good afternoon.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity to address this university audience on the importance of Pacific Regionalism.

This is an important matter for the men, women and children of both Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Regionalism is an important driving force for collective action as we develop our countries – and speak with one Pacific Voice.

Indeed, the Pacific Islands Forum Framework for Pacific Regionalism is a good starting point for discussion of this important issue.

It provides a platform for focusing on initiatives that recognise our shared resources, environment, and cultures – while at the same time promoting collective action for the good of us all.

Pacific Regionalism, in the current context within which we discuss it today, began with the Eminent Persons Group through the Pacific Islands Forum.

The intention of the group was to review the Pacific Plan, and to make it more inclusive.

It was also recognised at the time that greater political support was required to move forward the regional policy agenda to address the common challenges and development aspirations of the Pacific peoples.

This enables Leaders to be more focused on the PIF mandate, and attend to the strategic and practical needs to meaningfully address issues that affect our countries.

The Pacific, and particularly Melanesia, is a place of great opportunity for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Pacific Regionalism must be embraced by our Governments, by our business community, and very importantly, studied and advanced by our universities.

As global citizens, our responsibility to trade and to invest does not only lie within our respective countries – but we must engage within our region and globally.

We can use our collective strengths to advance the interests of our Pacific region. This is in our desire to create employment and advance business, and, at the same time, we must also work together as a region to confront challenges.

One of the greatest challenges we face today is climate change.

Right around our region, and around the world, lives are being lost and property destroyed by extreme weather caused by climate change.

Ecosystems are being destroyed and biodiversity undermined as weather patterns change. Environmental conditions that have been constant for thousands of years – are changing in the space of decades. This is destroying fish stocks and ruining farms and gardens.

Accession by most PIF members to the Paris Agreement, support by Fiji's Leadership at COP-23, has greatly advanced the regional agenda to deal with climate change.

This includes the sustainable management of our oceans.

Regional cooperation on this matter by PIF nations is important for mobilising development assistance from the Green Climate Fund.

This is a very important way for us to address adaptation and mitigation issues, and to enhance disaster risk management and emergency services.

At the United Nations level, Pacific votes on global resolutions must be applied strategically in order draw development assistance.

In the fisheries sector, our resources need to be sustainably managed against all forms of illegal and unregulated fishing.

To this end, the rebate system being currently applied in Papua New Guinea is a step in the right direction.

This is an area where Papua New Guinea will work with our partners, develop better practices, and retain more value from our fisheries sector in the pacific.

One of the most important elements to Pacific regionalism, as a group of developing countries – is ensuring inclusivity.

We need to better understand each other's economies and issues – and work together to ensure growth is truly inclusive.

We must create opportunities for small businesses to enter the formal financial sector and to access capital, and we must close the digital divide and empower all citizens.

APEC 2018 PAPUA NEW GUINEA Papua New Guinea is hosting APEC this year – culminating in the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November.

As host and Chair of APEC, we intend to strengthen inclusion and, very importantly, enhance connectivity between our people.

In this academic setting, I would like to provide you with greater insight to our policy theme and priorities for APEC 2018.

This theme and priorities provide the guidelines for APEC’s work during the course of the year.

This sets the tone of our policy discussions and deliberations during the year, and for our dialogue between APEC and Pacific Island leaders.

In 2018, APEC member economies are continuing to implement the commitments we all made through a set of goals agreed by APEC leaders in Bogor, Indonesia.

Working to facilitate free trade and investment in the APEC region, we are working to open markets, and to promote transparency and structural reforms.

The efforts made by economies are critical if we are to achieve the overarching goal of open and free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

The 2018 APEC policy theme is “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities, Embracing the Digital Future”.

This is all about gaining the best of Asia-Pacific regionalism so that we can build a more inclusive regional economy, with special attention to the opportunities that come from modern technologies.

This theme has three cascading priorities. The first of these is “Deepening Regional Economic Integration and Improving Connectivity.” As host, Papua New Guinea is facilitating discussions on key issues to progress APEC’s free trade and investment goals.

This includes promoting Regional Economic Integration and not giving up on the idea of a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.

Our APEC work is focused on improving connectivity, reviewing Global Value Chain initiatives, and progressing ongoing work on Next Generation Trade and Investment Issues. Ultimately this is promoting the liberalization of services, and strengthening institutional capacity for the internalisation of small business.

The second APEC 2018 policy priority is “Promoting Sustainable and Inclusive Growth.”

APEC is focusing its efforts on sustainable growth that is aimed towards reducing poverty and hunger, promoting education, and enhancing food security.

Food security is particularly important – with our work on ensuring that economies’ production and consumption habits are sustainable. In addition, under this policy priority, APEC is also maintaining a clear focus on key areas of Gender Inclusion and Empowerment.

The third 2018 APEC policy priority is “Strengthening Inclusive Growth through Structural Reforms.” For Papua New Guinea, and countries around the Pacific, Structural Reform remains an important priority agenda.

This is critical for removing the structural and regulatory obstacles that undermine cross-border trade and investment.

The placement of behind-the-border barriers to trade do not help any economy in the long-run, but only serve to undermine business certainty. The structural reform agenda in APEC is improving how markets function, and it is broadening and deepening market participation.

Ultimately, this is helping economies to increase productivity and strengthen inclusive growth.

For Papua New Guinea to build a stronger economy, we must support APEC’s work on Structural Reform that promotes Good Regulatory Practices.

This feeds into the Ease of Doing Business and enhancing competition. At a regional level, we must continue to promote long-term investment in infrastructure, financial inclusion, and international tax cooperation.

These are all matters being dealt with through the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process. Hosting APEC is a massive undertaking for any economy – let alone a developing Pacific Island Nation.

But we are demonstrating to the region, and to the world, that the time has come for Pacific Island Nations to stand strong for what we believe. CONCLUSION In the Pacific, we are often under-estimated but never counted-out.

We have strength in the number of our countries – particularly in forums such as the United Nations.

Working individually – we are limited in what we can achieve. Working together, as a region we will deliver shared and incisive economic growth for our people. We will improve the livelihoods and lifestyles of our people.

Pacific Regionalism is not just a concept, but it is a tool for all stakeholders to embrace. I hope this gives you a greater insight to our APEC 2018 agenda in Papua New Guinea, and what we can all do together for our people.

Thank You.

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