Màlò e lelei, kia orana, tena kotu, tena kotu, tena kotu, katoa and kia ora.
Prime Minister, the Honourable ‘Akilisi Pohiva.
My counterpart, the Honourable Dr Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, Minister of Trade.
May I acknowledge all of the ministers, negotiators and officials who have travelled from around the Pacific to be here today.
And my three colleagues from the New Zealand Parliament: the Honourable Annette King; Fletcher Tabuteau; and Barry Coates, who have joined me in a Cross-Party Parliamentary delegation to mark this significant occasion.
Prime Minister, New Zealand is part of the Pacific, and anyone who questions this need only reflect on the lesson offered by a truly Pacifica team, the Auckland Blues to the British Lions a few weeks ago.
New Zealand is a Pacific country, and we are committed to supporting our region to be more resilient and more prosperous.
We have very strong personal ties with almost 300,000 Pacific Islanders calling New Zealand home and Pacific people are projected to make up 10% of our population by 2038.
New Zealand and Australia are the largest sources of tourists for Pacific Island countries, we collectively buy more from you than any other nation and we are some of your most significant investors.
With PACER Plus begins a new era of closer economic relations. New Zealand has no closer relationship with a group of counties than with Pacific Island Nations.
For this reason, we have negotiated in good faith, as good neighbours and as friends. We have done so in a spirit of partnership, and as equals who share a common desire to make the lives of our respective peoples better.
PACER Plus is not about competing or about winners and losers. It is about shared prosperity and encouraging economic development in Pacific nations. It is a win-win for all of our countries.
It is a world-class trade and development agreement.
The agreement, the associated development and cooperation programme and the labour mobility and skills training arrangements, are deeply important undertakings for New Zealand.
It strikes a fair balance between lowering tariffs and barriers offering greater certainty for New Zealand businesses and investors while ensuring Pacific Island countries benefit from trade through increased capacity and modernising their economies at a sustainable and realistic pace.
In return, it also ensures we will all be treated fairly in any future trade and investment deals that might be done with other trading partners.
PACER Plus is more flexible for Pacific Island countries than almost any other trade agreement New Zealand has or is likely to sign. This is because I recognise that many of your countries face the challenge of limited size and resource and the reality of isolation, of sustainability and climate change.
This agreement will build more two-way trade and investment that will, in turn, support sustainable growth in Pacific Island economies to the benefit of Pacific Island people.
New Zealand has also committed to investing at least 20 per cent of our total Official Development Assistance in ‘Aid for Trade’ in the Pacific region.
The exact amount is to be determined but applying this target to New Zealand’s current three-year funding cycle, Aid for Trade would mean potential investments of over NZ$340 million in economic infrastructure and capacity building.
PACER Plus will give each of the signatory countries greater capacity to produce goods and services which you can then sell competitively in international markets, using trade as the engine of economic growth and sustainable development.
Ultimately, PACER Plus will mean more jobs for your people.
We have a long history of engagement between our countries. The long journey to today's ceremony began with the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1980 and then the original PACER Agreement in 2001.
While SPARTECA and PACER formed a solid foundation, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders launched a new process at their 40th meeting in August 2009.
When PACER Plus negotiations were launched, New Zealand’s then-Prime Minister Rt. Hon. John Key said that trade is a key driver of economic development in the Pacific and he undertook to support your countries to use trade in a way that would help increase jobs and capitalise on the opportunities that the international trading system presents.
PACER Plus is a comprehensive trade and development agreement, that we can all be proud of.
It is a model that the Pacific should use as the standard for negotiations with other nations. It sets a benchmark for others to show commitment and to help small Island economies grow through fair and balanced trade rules, good access to important markets, and a commitment to people.
Today marks not the end of a negotiation, but the continuation of an exciting journey. I’m pleased to be here eight years after we started to see our collective vision begin to be realised.
Màlò ‘aupito. Thank you very much.