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As trade in services has become the main engine of economic growth for the Pacific island countries that have little other export capacity, the World Trade Organization WTO) was involved in organizing a regional workshop on that topic in Vanuatu from August 5-8, 2013.
The members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Since August 2009, they have been involved in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus free trade negotiations, as a means to enhance regional trade and economic integration.
The workshop was the first regional activity held under the partnership arrangement concluded between the WTO and the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser in March 2013 to collaborate on the delivery of technical assistance to PIF members. OCTA is a regional organization, based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, that provides technical advice on regional and multilateral trade issues to the PIC countries.
Over twenty senior trade officials from eleven PICs attended the workshop. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the International Trade Center contributed resource persons to the discussion.
"Trade in services has become the main engine of economic growth for many countries in the world, especially small and vulnerable developing countries with little export capacity such as the FICs," said Toara Daniel, Vanuatu's Minister for Tourism and Trade, at his opening remarks at the workshop. Given the economic significance of trade in services for the economies of the region, he stressed the importance of attracting investment into certain critical sectors, such as tourism, transport, financial services and telecommunications.
Edwini Kessie, Chief Trade Advisor, recalled the mandate given by PIC Trade Ministers to senior officials to start negotiations on trade in services and investment under the PACER Plus at their recently-concluded in Samoa in July this year. He highlighted the timely scheduling of the workshop "in light of the need for knowledge and skills to secure a cutting-edge agreement on trade in services which would contribute to the robust growth and sustainable development of the Pacific region."
Antonia Carzaniga of the WTO's Trade in Services Division, added that the workshop aimed to deepen participants' understanding of the WTO disciplines for services trade and their potential impact on national and regional trade policy decisions. She said the event was also intended to provide an opportunity for senior trade officials to reflect on issues of particular relevance to the region.
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