PRESS RELEASE - Pohnpei, 30th April 2010 - Forum Trade Ministers have launched a major initiative to boost the ability of businesses in Forum islands countries to compete in global markets.

The 2010 Forum Trade Ministers' Meeting in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 29-30 April endorsed reforms to enhance the work being done by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat's network of Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissions (PITICs) in opening up opportunities for Pacific islands enterprises to market their products and services internationally.

Under the reforms the PITICs, which to date have functioned as essentially stand-alone operations will be brought under a new umbrella - Pacific Islands Trade and Invest - and will establish a coordinated corporate strategy.

The initiative also sees the existing Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissions, in Auckland, Beijing and Sydney taking on a new name, Pacific Islands Trade and Invest.

"To date, the PITICS have worked relatively independently and have different names in Beijing and Tokyo. They operate under different structures, have no coordinated branding or corporate strategy, and have faced challenges connecting with each other," said Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

At the Meeting, Ministers agreed to implement a programme to improve the service provided to Members and increase the volume and value of Pacific island exports and investment.

"As part of the reforms, performance improvement measures have been introduced and the Forum Trade Ministers have endorsed the development, in consultation with Members, of a shared 10-year Strategy to be tabled for consideration by the Ministers at their meeting next year," said Mr Slade.

In the past 12 months, work by Pacific Islands Trade and Invest in Auckland and Sydney helped drive a AU$4.9 million increase in exports from Pacific Island nations in Australia and New Zealand, helped secure more than AU$1 million of new investment into the region and provided advice and support to 340 firms. It also secured AU$690,000 of bookings for small tourism operators in the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia.