USP hosts public lecture on relevance of WTO in the region
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From L-R: Ms Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General PIFS; Mr. Roberto Azevedo, Director General WTO; and Professor Derrick Armstrong, DVC Research, Innovation & International.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) through its Pacific Centre for Economic Policy & Modelling in conjunction with World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) hosted a public lecture on WTO & its Relevance to Pacific Island Countries. The lecture was delivered by Mr. Roberto Azevedo, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation at Laucala Campus and live-streamed to the region on 21 May 2018.
Professor Derrick Armstrong, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and International) extended a special welcome to Mr Azevedo, whose visit was first to the region and to the University. He also commented that as a technical and academic institution, USP will actively facilitate and promote such collaborations for the benefit of the region.
Professor Armstrong stated that, “We have achieved many milestones together through such collaborations, and I greatly acknowledge the PIFS and WTO’s continued engagement with the University.”
He agreed that both these institutions have been instrumental in promoting trade from the region.
“Facilitating consistent trade from this region is no doubt difficult, and I salute the regional trade agencies, together with the WTO, for leading us through,” he said.
Ms Dame Meg Taylor, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in her introductory remarks mentioned that trade is a globalising agenda based on the principle of interdependency.
Part of the audience that turned up for the public lecture on The Pacific, WTO & Global Trade – the WTO & its Relevance to Pacific Island Countries.
“As a region, we know we can achieve more if we work together – a principle which Pacific Leaders have re-affirmed while endorsing the Framework for Pacific Regionalism,” she argued. Meg Taylor provided an historical update of the PIFS and its commitments toward addressing regional needs and priorities for promoting trade and development.
Mr Azevedo congratulated the USP for marking its 50th anniversary and commented that “USP is the leading academic institution in the South Pacific which truly embodies close cooperation, challenges and opportunities that exist here”. He urged Pacific Island Countries to remain actively engaged with the WTO, as smaller economies desperately need access to markets in order to grow and develop.
The Director General stated that the WTO provides a platform for regional countries to engage with the global economy and provides them opportunities to pursue their interests.
“The Pacific Islands have been a friend to the WTO for years with a very strong and united stance, sharing a common interest. “You really do have a voice in Geneva,” he said, alluding to the PIFS’s Regional Ambassador who is based at the Headquarters of the WTO.
“Your executives there are doing an excellent job in making your voice heard,” he mentioned.
“The Pacific Islands cover 40 million square kilometres of land and sea. This offers great potential in terms of access to natural resources and at the same time it presents the challenges of distance, vulnerability and natural disasters,” he stated.
He mentioned that the Pacific Island nations were instrumental in securing the Paris Agreement in 2015. Fiji played a key role in presiding over COP23 in Bonn last year; and the region was also a driving force behind the Oceans Conference in New York which focused on SDG14.
“The simple fact is that we are better placed to deal with the global challenges before us when we work together with your leadership and advocacy. These are particularly important especially when these are challenging times for multilateralism, not only in trade but generally,” he stated.
“However all of this will be affected if the tensions that we have been seeing continue to escalate. The global economy is interconnected and in this context, the effects of any shocks to the trading system will be globalised and will reach far beyond countries directly involved in these tensions,” he said.
“The Pacific region is unlikely to be immune to all of this so we have to do everything we can to stop this from further escalation,” he highlighted.
Mr Azevedo confirmed that WTO members are taking every possible action “to avoid going down this road and we need to find ways to resolve such tensions in a constructive manner”.
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