**** Speech by Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea At the 47th Pacific Islands Forum Opening Ceremony “Progressing the Forum’s Ambitions: The Year in Review” Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia – 8th September 2016 ****
It is a pleasure be here in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Today Papua New Guinea passes the Forum Chair to good President Christian and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Thank you for the excellent preparations your nation has put into preparing for this forum. A lot of work has gone into this meeting and we will see productive outcomes. The past year has been a very busy time for the Pacific Islands Forum group of nations.
We have made a commitment to regionalism with the Framework for Pacific Regionalism that we adopted in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, last year. This Framework helps address challenges of being small and far island nations.
The Framework is in the early and formative stages of a new era for the Pacific region. The 2030 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals represents the new universal development paradigm for our nations. Our challenge is to implement this in a way that is consistent with individual national concerns.
As a group of island nations – the status of our marine environment remains a priority. Last year we prioritised action to ensure a sustainable increase on our return on fisheries. We must not lose sight of this commitment and we must monitor implementation.
This past year has seen much work put into concluding trade deals such as PACER Plus. This will be finalised shortly. As you are aware, Papua New Guinea will not be a part of that arrangement. This is a decision that has come about after careful analysis and consideration. Considering the size and structure of our economy would see a net loss PNG through PACER PLUS. But I know very well that PACER PLUS will be a strong bonus to many of the economies in the region. It will help to further improve the lives of people in many Pacific island communities. That is why it is important that we must conclude this arrangement as soon as possible.
But there are also global challenges that we face today.
Global commodity prices are low, there is a slowdown in larger Asian trading partners. Global pressures affect all island nations. The slowdown affects tourism, and demand for non-resources commodities. But we must continue to work together, think smarter and be sensible in our economic decisions, so that our growth continues.
Climate change makes these challenges worse.
Climate change is more than an environmental issue – it is an economic and a political issue as well. Climate change is destroying communities and costing jobs and displacing many of our people. The Paris Agreement in which we led the discussions has set targets, and provided global recognition of the concerns and realities. As a global community we must deliver on these promises for our people. The recent commitment by the United States and China to ratify the Agreement is most welcomed. We must continue to show leadership and encourage all countries to ratify the agreement.
We also as a region, continue to engage as a group in multilateral discussions with our major trading partners. We have held discussions with Japan, China, India and last week with the United States. These engagements gives collective strength to bring concerns to the largest global economies. Through these engagements we are able to better realise our collective vision for the region. We need to continue to expand this collective representation.
PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS’ APEC
In 2018, Papua New Guinea will host APEC. This is up to 200 meetings concluding with the APEC Leaders’ Summit in November 2018. Papua New Guinea wishes this to be a Pacific APEC. It gives us an opportunity to enable APEC’s policy agenda must to take into account the concerns of smaller Asia-Pacific countries. The economic effects of climate change, development challenges and sustainable marine resources will be highlighted. Papua New Guinea will invite all island nations to participate in forums alongside APEC meetings. Our collective views will be taken to APEC Leaders and will be given a warm reception. We must put our local concerns to the global community.
In concluding as outgoing Chair, I acknowledge all the Pacific Island Nations in our collective efforts to deal with the concerns of our collective nations. I also acknowledge the god work of our Forum staff and our Secretary General who have been the driving strength behind many of the issues that the Leaders have raised.
Individually, our nations are small in global terms – but together we are strong. I look forward to working with the incoming Chair, His Excellency, President Peter Christian, and to his strong leadership of the Forum, and with the good people of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Thank you very much.