A regional workshop on Trade in Services for the Pacific was jointly organized by the WTO and the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 5 to 8 August 2013. The OCTA is a regional organization, based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, that provides technical advice on regional and multilateral trade issues to the Forum Island Countries (FICs).
“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 Honorable Toara Daniel, Minister for Tourism, Trade Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business, 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.
Minister Daniel also noted that the workshop was the first of its kind to be hosted by Vanuatu since its accession to the WTO in August 2012. He highlighted his country’s on-going post-accession efforts to maximize the benefits of WTO membership.
The workshop was the first regional activity held under the partnership arrangement concluded between the WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation (ITTC) and the OCTA in March 2013 to collaborate on the delivery of technical assistance to FICs. Over twenty senior trade officials from eleven FICs attended the workshop. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) contributed resource persons to the discussion.
In welcoming senior trade officials, Dr Edwini Kessie, Chief Trade Advisor, recalled the mandate given by Forum Trade Ministers to senior officials to start negotiations on trade in services and investment under the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) at the recently concluded Forum Trade Ministers’ meeting in Samoa in July 2013. He highlighted the timely scheduling of this workshop with a services expert from the WTO, 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.
The WTO representative, Ms Antonia Carzaniga of the Trade in Services Division, said 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, such as the supply of services through the temporary movement of natural persons and the Ministerial Decision on the services waiver for least-developed countries.