Pacific Island Affairs Minister and Associate Trade Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban has returned from a meeting of Pacific Forum Trade Ministers and senior officials in Rarotonga saying the meeting was a success in advancing a number of key issues.
"My comments to the meeting focussed on the importance of our discussions to progressing the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, reflecting the need to build on a consensus between Pacific nations on the way forward - much in the same way as members of a waka must paddle together in unison to progress.
"New Zealand is an integral part of the Pacific and we want to ensure that progress is made to create an economic partnership that will strengthen trade and economic cooperation between all Forum members. Progress has to reflect the varying situations of all the member states, large and small."
Forum Ministers agreed that there should be an additional three consultation meetings over the coming months with a view to preparing the way to launch more formal negotiations. New Zealand offered to fund one of these meetings.
"With the benefit of a recently completed review, we reaffirmed the programme of work on trade facilitation (the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme). It was agreed that efforts should be made to enhance the effectiveness of the programme and that there is a need for a greater degree of accountability in assessing and reporting on outcomes."
Agreement was also reached on the continuing importance of maintaining the Forum office at the WTO, and benefits this offers all members. Funding options to maintain this office will be discussed with donors later in the year.
"The meeting has been successful and has continued to build on the excellent relationship we have with our Pacific partners," Laban said.