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Maritime Silk Road to the South Pacific

Address by David Morris

Trade Commissioner, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest

 One Belt, One Road Investment & Trade Fair

Shenzhen, 19 June 2015

Vice Mayor Chen Biao, distinguished guests.

It is a pleasure to be here in Shenzhen, where the modern Chinese economic miracle began with the very first Special Economic Zone back in the 1980s – and look how far you have come!  It is also a pleasure to be here representing another unique part of the world, the Pacific Islands.

The South Pacific is, for many, the very definition of paradise: clean air and water, beautiful beaches and scenery, rich in resources, seafood and tropical fruits, friendly people and strong, diverse cultures dating back thousands of years.

It can feel a long way from the huge cities of China, but today the world is a small place.  There are opportunities in the complementarities between China and the Pacific.  Each can provide the other with things that we need.

After tremendously successful and rapid economic development in the last three decades, China is entering a new period of slower, but more sustainable and more balanced growth that is seeing the emergence of a consumer society on a scale and at a speed not seen before.

This is a transformation that can benefit the global economy as China saves less and spends more, invests in infrastructure and logistics chains and sea searches for a more diverse range of goods and services to import from the rest of the world.

President Xi Jinping has articulated a vision for China’s next phase of economic engagement with the world as a “New Silk Road”, including a “Maritime Silk Road”, to foster trade in goods and services for mutual benefit between China and all of its trading partners.

The Maritime Silk Road naturally extends to the Pacific Islands, where for centuries Chinese traders have plied the south sea shipping routes.

Not only can the Pacific Islands supply resources to China such as minerals, energy and timber, but also fish and a range of other food, beverages and specialist health products from the pure, tropical environment of the Pacific.

The trade in goods between the People’s Republic of China and the Pacific Islands Countries reached US$4.5 billion in 2014, comprising exports from China to the Pacific Island Countries of US$2.5 billion and exports from the Pacific Islands Countries to China of US$2 billion.

There are still areas of untapped potential and I invite you to take a closer look at the Pacific Islands.

We at Pacific Islands Trade & Invest promote trade, investment and tourism for the fourteen Pacific Island Countries including work to:

  • develop export-capable businesses;connect exporters with international buyers;

  • support the marketing of niche Pacific Island tourism services and products;

  • introduce potential investors to the Pacific Islands;

  • promote the value of Pacific Island art and artisans work;

  • provide promotional support, networks and technical expertise; and

  • facilitate shared understanding between the Pacific and the China market.

Today it is my honour to sign up Pacific Islands Trade & Invest as a founding member of the Silk Road Investment and Trade Promotion Union.

I note that we are in good company, with more than 40 other trade and investment promotion organisations joining SITPU as founding members, including representatives from our fellow Pacific Islands Forum Member States, Australia and New Zealand.

We look forward to growing the trade routes between the Pacific and China.

With Chen Biao, Vice-Mayor of Shenzhen, the city that epitomises modern China’s emergence as a powerhouse economy

Trade also naturally leads to investment and strengthened people-to-people connections.

There are important investment opportunities in the Pacific Islands Countries in mining, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture and, importantly, tourism infrastructure.

There is great potential to use Pacific Island communities as small test beds for renewable energy technology and also to utilize skilled people and cost-effective locations for offshore financial services and communications centres.

The links between China and the Pacific will continue to grow, underpinned by strong friendships.  The government-to-government relationships between China and the Pacific Islands are represented at the highest level with regular meetings.

We were delighted to have a visit to Fiji last year by President Xi Jinping, where he met eight heads of government from countries across the South Pacific.

President Xi pledged strong cooperation, assistance, respect and access for Pacific exports to the Chinese economy.

He announced thousands of scholarships and other training assistance across the region and made an important commitment to help the small nations of the Pacific deal with the threat and reality of climate change

A year before, in 2013, Guangzhou hosted the second China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum.  At that forum, China generously offered US$1 billion of assistance to the Pacific Islands for infrastructure and other important economic and social development projects. 

China also offered:

to assist Pacific exporters to access the Chinese market,scholarships to help develop the skills and technical expertise of the people of the Pacific,assistance in building tourism and air agreements to foster greater tourism connections,cooperation in health and agriculture andsupport in the transition towards renewable energy and mitigation of the impact on the Pacific of climate change and natural disasters.

During the recent delegation led by the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province, Hu Chunhua, to Fiji, many new partnerships and friendships were developed and reinforced at the Fiji-Guangdong Economic and Trade Cooperation Conference.

Guangdong Province Tourism Administration signed an MOU to promote tourism to the South Pacific with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation and more than twenty other agreements were signed between Guangdong and Fiji on cooperation in the timber industry, agriculture, mining and other fields.

Now we need to find the business opportunities, to match your needs with the right partner in the Pacific with capabilities to meet your needs.

We at Pacific Trade & Invest are here to help you make those right connections, working in partnership with the Chinese Government, the Government of Guangdong Province, the governments of the Pacific Island Countries and businesses throughout the region.

So please introduce yourself if you would like to be introduced to the Pacific!

Come and visit and enjoy some Pacific hospitality and help us build stronger and long-lasting friendships between the people of the Pacific and the people of China.

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