REMARKS: Vice-Chair of the Pacific E-Commerce Committee Meeting, Howard Politini, at the 2nd Pacific E-Commerce Committee Meeting

Remarks and Speeches
19 April 2024





•    Good morning Esteemed Senior Officials, Members and Observers, Ladies and gentlemen and all Protocols observed.

•    Warm greetings from Suva and welcome to the second Pacific E-commerce Committee meeting.

•    I am glad to see many of our members and partners joining us today, and I also acknowledge those attending for the first time. I am pleased to be chairing this meeting. Today, we have an important agenda focusing on key aspects of the Pacific E-commerce Initiative. We will discuss the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, its governance framework, and implementation progress.

The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020-2025 and Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap

•    As you know the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, endorsed by our Pacific Island Forum Leaders in 2022, is our roadmap for regional advancement over the next three decades. Aligned with 'Resources and Economic Development' and 'Technology and Connectivity' Thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy, is the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy 2020-2025.

•    One key priority of the Pacific Aid-for-Trade Strategy is E-commerce. E-commerce can reduce business costs, connect our remote markets, bridge distances to regional and international markets, empower micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, engage women and youth entrepreneurs, reduce the digital divide, and promote economic diversification, particularly in services.

•    The Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy, endorsed by our Trade Ministers in 2021, outlines 54 regional measures to guide our regional e-commerce development. The Ministers have directed the Pacific E-commerce Committee to oversee and steer the implementation of the Regional Strategy. I am delighted that everyone has taken the time today to fulfil this directive.

•    I am pleased to acknowledge the valuable contributions of our Observers who are also partners to the Pacific E-commerce Initiative. Since 2017, you have supported our Members through development and implementation of e-commerce assessments, and since 2021 you have also actively supported the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap.

Meeting overview

•    Today we will receive an overview of the Pacific E-commerce Initiative's governance and coordination mechanisms, a comprehensive review of the M&E Report 2023 for the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, and an introduction to the upgraded M&E system.

•    We will also hear from our Private Sector and some of our members. Myself as the Chair of the Pacific E-commerce Private Sector Sub-committee, I will present the outcomes of the Pacific E-commerce Private Sector Sub-committee meeting. We will also hear updates from PNG and Tuvalu on the implementation progress of their National E-commerce Strategies.

Implementation Progress

•    At our inaugural meeting in 2022, you may recall that the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system could not report the percentage of implementation of the Strategy's measures. It could only indicate how many measures were being actioned through one or more active projects. Since then, we have made significant progress and upgraded our M&E system, which can now provide us with a clearer understanding of the state of implementation of the Strategy. We will delve into this in more detail later this morning.

•    I am really proud of our Members and Partners who are contributing to the implementation of the Regional Strategy. E-commerce is one of the most active areas in the Pacific, thanks to your efforts.

•    Looking at the Pacific E-commerce Portal, I can see that Australia, Japan, and the United States are making major breakthroughs, thanks to the extension of submarine cables connecting over 100,000 people in East Micronesia.

•    We must commend UNCTAD for their extensive work to increase the knowledge base in the Pacific— in 2023, they launched the first-ever edition of their Digital Economy report focused entirely on our region. This publication is a key resource for policymakers, partners, and the private sector seeking to enhance the e-commerce ecosystem in the Pacific. Our Members and partners now have a solid text they can refer to when seeking evidence to support implementation of the Regional and National E-commerce Strategies.

•    Thanks to the technical support from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and initiatives from the Commonwealth Secretariat, Pacific countries are better equipped to engage in cross-border paperless trade—an essential component of modern trade. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is supporting Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, and PNG to adopt the necessary steps to boost trust in e-commerce by applying a harmonised laws and regulations across the region. The Commonwealth and PIFS are providing training support to Pacific policymakers through online courses that have seen more than 100 participants over the past two years.

•    The United Nations Capital Development Fund is supporting Pacific Central Banks, Provident Funds, and service providers to improve their systems and services for users of the digital economy. Thanks to their efforts, many Pacific islanders can now make e-payments and transfer remittances more cheaply and easily. UNCDF, PIFS, PTI Australia, and PTI New Zealand are supporting businesses with training, tailored mentoring, and grant schemes aimed at mitigating the issue of access to capital for e-commerce ventures.

•    There are many more partners and initiatives to mention, but I will need to stop here. You can find this information and more on the Pacific E-commerce Portal. In fact, coordinating an ambitious regional effort such as ours, would not be possible without our Pacific E-commerce Portal, the Pacific E-commerce Private Sector and Development Partners Sub-committee, approved in July 2023, and the Pacific E-commerce Alliance.

•    While we celebrate the achievements made so far, it is crucial to recognise that we are still far from reaching our target. Indeed, despite our collective efforts, the implementation of the Strategy falls below the expected 50% mark, which is concerning given its current lifecycle. We must examine closely which areas of e-commerce development require more attention and address the reasons for their lagging progress.

•    Today, as we delve deeper into the 2023 M&E report, we urge all our donor partners, implementing agencies, and Forum Island Countries to redouble their efforts and commitment to advancing the Pacific E-commerce Initiative.


•    While I will encourage members to lead the discussions, I also welcome the active involvement of our observers during the meeting deliberations. As we have only two hours to cover an extensive agenda, I will make efforts to chair the meeting mindful of time constraints. I'm afraid there will not be a coffee break, but with efficient time management, we should finish in time for your respective lunch hours.

•    Esteemed colleagues, I conclude these brief remarks by thanking you for the strong support to the Pacific E-commerce Initiative and encourage your active participation to today’s deliberations.

•    Let us now look at our next agenda item, which is the adoption of provisional agenda and meeting timetable.