We are going to need to learn how to better work together. We in the vast Pacific Ocean know this. It is why our leaders created the Pacific Islands Forum, because we can address challenges more effectively if we work together than alone.
A month ago, at the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York, world leaders committed to conserve and sustainably use our oceans and marine resources for sustainable development. That’s going to require cooperation between governments, industries and communities with a commitment to the future health of our environment and to opportunities for our young and their future prosperity.
A few weeks ago the Chinese Government released a document entitled “Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.” The vision promotes partnership between the nations along the Maritime Silk Road and, notably, the Vision includes a “blue economy” passage linking China to Oceania, the South Pacific. This is going to require a much greater reservoir of cultural understanding between very different civilisations and matching of economic opportunities so that all can benefit. I am optimistic that we can build that understanding and find “win win” economic cooperation opportunities.
A few days ago, I am pleased to report, the Chinese Government confirmed its ongoing partnership with our region, by providing another annual funding contribution to the Pacific Islands Forum to support our Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commission programs promoting trade, investment, tourism, education and training and other cooperation.
We take this generosity of China very seriously and we are committed to building and supporting friendship, business and greater development opportunities for all partners.
Partnership and cooperation is not easy. It requires listening, learning and understanding each other. It requires practical steps that deliver on the needs of all partners, for mutual benefit.
It is much more difficult than it sounds. But it is absolutely essential because we all live in the one ocean and, at the end of the day, what unites us, our shared needs and our shared challenges, are bigger than those things that divide us, the misunderstandings, the misguided belief that one side can win and win again. Or the belief that it is possible to put one country first. That is the opposite of partnership and leads to a downward spiral of mistrust and potentially conflict.
We need partnership more than ever because globalisation has made the world smaller and more connected. We need shared action because climate change and poor governance of our resources endangers the development of so many of our island and coastal communities.
Where are the economic opportunities and how can partnerships help?
Some of our islands in the Pacific are rich in timber, energy and mineral resources. Last year, Papua New Guinea exported liquid natural gas, timber and nickel to China worth nearly $2 billion.
But resource-rich countries face disruptive development challenges. Accessing resources must be win win. Many foreign companies have made mistakes in believing resource extraction was a simple matter of exploration, exploitation and leave. Australian companies, Chinese companies and others have learned that it is not only respectful but wise to sit down with local land owners and to ensure through communication and negotiation that local communities are benefiting from big resources projects. The legacies from giant resource projects must not be just giant holes in the ground, but include new skills, new infrastructure and new industries for local people to ensure the benefits are shared.
Fisheries is the largest resource of the island nations of Oceania. The Pacific tuna fishery is worth an estimated $4 billion a year but only 15 per cent of that amount accrues to the Pacific Island Countries, in whose Exclusive Economic Zones the fish are caught.
The main source of revenue for the island economies is from the sale of fishing licenses. Two thirds of the tuna is harvested by foreign fishing boats and nearly 90 per cent is transported out of the region to be processed.
So how can we work together?
While there are limits on the tuna catch available to foreign fishing fleets, there are opportunities to partner with local Pacific companies to access under-utilized national fishing quotas, to conduct processing and other value-added activities to increase the value of the resource.
Businesses are partnering to support sustainable fisheries by tackling illegal fishing. At the UN Ocean Conference in New York the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration was announced, an industry alliance of tuna industry leaders. I am delighted that Shenzhen-based Liancheng Overseas Fishery, a company with which PTI China works closely, is a founding member of the industry alliance backing the Traceability Declaration.
I am delighted to say we are working with many businesses from South China that understand and are committed to sustainable and inclusive development in the Pacific Islands. We pledge our partnership to you, to help connect you to opportunities and we hope in time to be able to tell the stories of your success.
We also have strong partnerships with the Guangdong and Shenzhen Governments and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), who support the development of business between South China and the Pacific.
Tonight we are here to celebrate a new partnership.
A partnership based on a shared commitment to improving knowledge and understanding of the opportunities for China-Pacific Islands economic cooperation.
We are delighted to partner with South China’s leading think tank, the China Development Institute, which has a proud record of practical, industry-relevant research and thought leadership.
CDI’s home city of Shenzhen represents China’s opening to the world, the great transformation of China based upon practical observation of what works, implementation and innovation.
The Maritime Silk Road offers to be a platform for practical cooperation in building the infrastructure and connectivity that will bring China and the Pacific Islands closer.
We will work with CDI to observe what works and to identify practical steps to build that Maritime Silk Road.
We are very honoured to have CDI as our friend and partner. We welcome others in South China with a passion for the sustainable development of the Pacific Islands to work with us. There are not so many of us in China focused on the Pacific Islands, so we appreciate you all. Let’s work together!