Firstly, I would like to once again thank the hosts, the Government and the people of Kenya for the excellent arrangements made for the UNCTAD 14 and all the courtesies extended to myself and my delegation since our arrival.
After the successful hosting of MC10, this is the second time I have experienced the excellent hospitality and arrangement, which no doubt will contribute to the success of our meeting.
I am delighted to be here and be part of the UNCTAD 14 as the themes and sub-themes for this conference very much relates to the issues and priorities of the Fijian Government, as we continue to deliver for our people.
As you may be aware, Fiji as a small island economy that relies on its exports and imports to provide the goods and services required by its consumers, therefore trade remains an integral part of the Fijian economy.
Fiji’s trade policy is characterized by an overall openness, complemented by autonomous liberalization beyond WTO commitments, while also allowing Government to retain the policy space necessary to absorb external shocks and to account for changing trading circumstances.
Fiji remains committed to pursuing policies aimed at promoting the expansion of markets at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, as well as, the diversification of Fiji’s export product base.
In Fiji’s view, the maintenance of integrity and credibility of the Multilateral Trading System is a component in the mix of global policy approaches needed to ensure sustained economic growth.
Even though some of the rules are burdensome on many developing countries and small and vulnerable economies, it is our considered view that the rules could be improved and be made relevant in order to make the multilateral trading system fair and inclusive for all Members.
Fiji still remains fully committed to the Doha Development Agenda -DDA and has been disappointed at the inability of the WTO Membership arriving at concrete developmental outcomes for the DDA since 2001.
Fiji was very hopeful that we would get some positive outcomes from the 10th Ministerial Conference held here in Kenya last December. However, the eventual outcome, despite intensive negotiations, was rather disappointing. The hope of the DDA was to bring tangible benefits for developing countries, including farmers and fishermen in rural areas where the potential for the economic development through trade still burns high.
For Fiji and the Pacific, fisheries is an integral part of our way of life and a key resource. Therefore it is important to ensure that fisheries resources are managed in a sustainable manner and that the activities of the present generation should not compromise the needs of the future generations.
In this regard, Fiji was disappointed that Nairobi Ministerial Declaration did not contain legally binding commitments for Members disciplining fisheries subsidies. Despite the mandate to negotiate fisheries subsidies.
In that regard Chair,
Fiji urges all Member countries to continue collaborating to seek a meaningful outcome, at minimum, in line with the global commitments made in the 2030 Agenda for Development. We do our own futures a disservice if we do not.
Fiji is well on the path to social and economic transformation and we are very committed to it. As part of achieving our economic vision, Fiji has completed its domestic processes in terms of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and the ratification process will be completed soon.
This is timely following the imminent launch of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the United Nations Inter-Agency Cluster on Trade and Productive Capacity by the end of this year. Fiji welcomes the new initiative of creating a new trust fund to fund cluster activities in the three prioritised areas namely; trade facilitation, trade and employment and trade and value chains.
Whilst we welcome and fully support the creation of the cluster structured new Trust Fund, in order to get the desired outcomes and impact, we would like to urge that this strategy will only be possible when businesses and investors focus not just on profits, but also on workers and their communities. Such an approach will need to integrate efforts to develop a well-trained, stable workforce as a foundation for the human capital, skills, and predictability needed for long-term socio-economic growth and development.
We feel that the trade facilitation cluster will be another added vehicle to assist countries to tap into the funds to finance other aspects of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, especially in cases where they may lack partners to assist them implement certain measures.
With regards to the trade and employment cluster, the aspect of trade and employment has been the weakest correlation link in most economies. Effective delivery of this strategy, which produces results and make positive impact should be at the core. By focusing on trade as a creator of employment, we will be able to truly deliver on key aspects of development. Increased trade induces opportunities that leads to improvement of lives of people. In this way, increased trade will mean a win-win outcome for all.
On one hand, businesses from large corporations to MSMEs as well as governments benefit from increased trade flows and strong returns on their investment. On the other hand, workers and their communities benefit from stable incomes and rising standards of living.
The trade and value chains is another important cluster, which in our view will help create and strengthen linkages along the supply chains at national, regional and global level. This will further make trade more beneficial to all the players involved in the production process.
In this regard, Fiji would like to request that the implementation of this proposed Trust Fund takes into account the unique circumstances of countries especially the LDCs and Small and Vulnerable Economies due to the distance from markets and remoteness of our economies.
It is also important to understand that even though the global economy is interdependent, certain regions such as, the Pacific is mostly left out in decision making bodies at the international level, as it is usually lumped together with Asia. In this regard, fairness and equity in participation and representation should be cornerstone of the international system defends, rather than leaving it to individual members to argue for.
We are working hard to ensure that the small voices of the Pacific is heard at the international level in negotiations and its regular work.
There is no greater advocate of climate change than the Fijian Prime Minister is the champion on Climate Change issues. Fiji was the first nation in the world to have ratified the Paris Agreement. Fiji also became the first country in the Pacific to adopt a Green Growth Framework, in which the sustainable development of our resources on land and sea is the overriding imperative.
Five months ago, the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere slammed into Fiji and devastated a significant portion of the country. Tropical Cyclone Winston killed 44 Fijians and injured dozens more. It damaged or destroyed up to 40,000 homes, 229 schools and other public buildings and infrastructure.
We desperately need you to side with us not only to arrest the current state of global warming but to help us adapt to the sea level rises and extreme weather events associated with climate change. Do not abandon us to the terrible fate that awaits us through it’s no fault of our own. It is a very real prospect that a single climate event can destroy all the progress we are making to build strong economies and improve the lives of our people.
Fiji also appeals to the global community for a much sharper focus on assisting small and vulnerable nations to build their resilience to climate change.
We owe it to ourselves and to future generations not only to implement the Paris Agreement but to go beyond, for our children’s sake and our planet’s future.
Building economic resilience for the most vulnerable is critical to our situation. This is an important aspect to island countries, especially in the Pacific region where one natural disaster has potential to bring the country to its knees. For us, there is a strong linkage between economic resilience and climate change resilience. This is a prime reason why Fiji and others who are directly affected by natural disasters, values greatly the global action on climate change.
We also note that the transition to a Green Blue Economy is a long-term challenge. We will need to persevere and spare no effort as we move towards more efficient use and conservation of natural resources and greater respect for our ocean, which is our life blood.
Healthy oceans will guarantee the livelihood of future generations in the Pacific and the rest of the world. As we in the Pacific know all too well, it is a collective challenge that States and private actors must assume together. We must develop strategies and embrace approaches to business, trade, infrastructure, energy, food production and employment that enshrine efficiency in the use of resources, minimise waste and pollution.
To make the transition to a Green Blue economy, we will need framework conditions for innovation and a strong voluntary commitment from the business community, the scientific community and civil society.
Fiji’s commitment to the 2030 global sustainable development agenda is absolute and is a cornerstone of our national policies.
At every level, we have made the sustainable development of our resources, the reduction of poverty and the social and economic progress of the Fijian people our key priorities.
Yesterday I had the privilege of being one of the panellists during the session on “women as agents for economic change”. Let me reiterate that women are the significant agents of change in our families, communities and economies as a whole. It is their hard work and commitment that builds the strong foundation for the future of their family and that of the nation.
As Fiji, we have demonstrated our commitment to gender equality aspects at every level. We have established unprecedented equality for all Fijians in our Constitution, including “the right to be free from any form of violence”.
We are empowering women by improving their access to education through free schooling, scholarships and tertiary loans. We are empowering women by encouraging them to start their own businesses with our small and micro business grants.
We have modernised our laws to give women protection and equal rights and access to opportunities.
In conclusion Chair,
Fiji is undertaking revolutionary reforms and our vision is to make our country a vibrant, dynamic and internationally competitive economy, serving as the hub of the Pacific. It is our hope that the outcomes of UNCTAD 14 will be translated from decisions to actions towards an inclusive and equitable global economic environment for trade and development.
I thank you