[Perth, October 28 2011] The Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) and Pacific Islands Trade & Invest (PT&I) this week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together on business and investment opportunities between Forum Island Countries and Commonwealth nations.

The MOU was signed on the first day of the Commonwealth Business Forum on the 25th of this month ahead of the biennial 54-nation Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2011).

The CBC, which organises the business forum, provides a bridge between the private sector and government, between emerging markets and developed markets and between small business and the international private sector. PT&I is the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat's export, tourism, trade and investment promotion arm with offices in New Zealand, Australia, China and Japan.

The MOU, which was signed by Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade and CBC Managing Director Steve Godfrey, will be the essential bridge-building platform between Pacific Island businesses and those in the rest of the Commonwealth nations.

The document covers wide ranging measures to promote business and investment meant to benefit island nations and the nations of the Commonwealth including sharing knowledge, information and business intelligence, human resources development, training and exchange of personnel between the signatories.

The two parties also will work together to explore trade and investment opportunities as well as establish trading relationships in each other's national groupings. Within three months of the signing, the parties will identify a start up a programme to initiate cooperation under the MOU, which runs until December 31, 2013.

"The MOU is a gesture of confidence from our region to reach out, to demonstrate our ability to do business with the wider Commonwealth community," said Secretary General Slade after the signing ceremony. "We need to encourage our private sector to do more to tap into this emerging opportunity. This is a great start for enabling greater business and investment flows between the Pacific Islands and the Commonwealth."

The signing ceremony took place at a special session of the Commonwealth Business Forum which considered the challenges and opportunities in the Pacific Islands. Minister Richard Marles, the Australian Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs chaired the discussion session at which Secretary General Slade was the principal presenter. Minister Marles was present and endorsed the signing of the MOU.

This is the first time that the Pacific Islands were represented at a Commonwealth Business Forum event. PT&I Trade Commissioner for New Zealand Adam Denniss led a delegation of private sector representatives from Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The signing of the MOU was acknowledged as one of the highlights of the first day's proceedings and received a mention in CBC Secretary General Mohan Kaul's vote of thanks address at the gala dinner, which Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard as well as the heads of several Commonwealth nations and top international and Australian businesspeople attended.