Press Statement - Delegates from across the region gathered this week to review the findings of a draft feasibility study on regional approaches to targeted customs services in Forum Island Countries.

The workshop which concluded today in Nadi, Fiji, was attended by Forum member country representatives, including Heads of Customs Administrations and senior officials from the Ministries of Finance and Planning, as well as a representative from the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) jointly organised the workshop, which was held in response to specific mandates from the Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting (FEMM).

Based on a pre-feasibility assessment carried out in 2007, Economic Ministers noted that regional options could be explored, and subsequently, the Forum Secretariat, in consultation with the OCO, initiated a feasibility study to determine the viability of targeted customs services at sub-regional levels.

The Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade said the workshop and the study were important steps forward in a process that was sanctioned by FEMM in 2006, building on the Pacific Plan's Initiative 12.1 to strengthen customs administrations and institutions and support the implementation of the Forum's Principles of Good Leadership and Accountability.

"Participants of this workshop have had an opportunity to contribute to what could potentially be a turning point for customs administrations in the region, particularly in terms of how we envisage the collection of revenue to generate growth and investment and influence the facilitation of trade, as well as in the security of our borders to ensure stability," said Mr Slade.

Mr Kulu Bloomfield, Head of the OCO Secretariat, in his closing remarks highlighted the good outcomes reached through the excellent contributions of participants, particularly with regards to design, sequencing and implementation of recommended options.

"The very lively group and plenary discussions allowed for comprehensive contributions to be put forward by all participants, and these now form helpful inputs in the process to finalise the feasibility study."

The feasibility study, incorporating the views of the workshop participants, will be tabled at the Heads of Customs meeting organised by the OCO to be held in May 2009 and the next Forum Economic Ministers' Meeting to be held in Rarotonga.