Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, especially to the members of the National WTO Committee and the representatives from the core agencies. I wish you a fruitful meeting and a very pleasant stay in our country.
I thank the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, donor partners and multilateral organisations for inviting me to inaugurate this workshop.
This multilateral initiative, which was launched in the Maldives in 2005 with the support of six major international agencies – the WTO, World Bank, IMF, ITC, UNCTAD and UNDP, provides trade related technical assistance.
We are gathered here to nationally endorse the detailed Action Matrix formulated under the Integrated Framework for the Maldives.
By implementing the projects in the Action Matrix, the Maldives hopes to enhance its capacity to export goods and services to the rest of the world and to integrate its economy into the global trading system.
I thank the six agencies for their generous assistance and support.
I know that European Commission has actively supported the process undertaken by the six agencies, and has agreed to facilitate aid coordination for the Maldives for the projects identified under the Action Matrix. I thank the European Commission for accepting this role and for its interest in developing international trade in the Maldives.
International trade is a key component in the national economic growth strategy of our Seventh National Development Plan. Our national development plans are formulated as integrated components that would help us achieve our medium to long term development objectives. By 2020, the Maldives hopes to become the “hub of free trade in the region”.
In this regard, I am glad to note that the projects and policies outlined in the Action Matrix are incorporated into our national trade policy. I believe that this is a necessary condition to achieve the goals set out in our Vision 2020.
International trade is no doubt a strategic priority that should reach across the entire government spectrum, including key economic and social sectors such as fisheries, tourism, healthcare and education. The early implementation of the national trade policy is, therefore, a responsibility of all the concerned Ministries of the Government. Teamwork and partnership are essential ingredients for success in this endeavour, to realise the benefits, advantages and opportunities that are provided by the global market.
We must recognise that the development of a comprehensive national trade policy is a good beginning and a vital aspect of our overall development efforts. I, therefore, urge all stakeholders to ensure that the implementation of the Integrated Framework Action Matrix and the Trade Policy is undertaken effectively and harmoniously.
Trade, in some ways, has its unique features in the Maldives. The main actors in trade are outside the Government framework. It is our dynamic business community who will play the most important role in ensuring the success of the national trade policy.
The Government is firmly committed to facilitating the growth and expansion of the private sector, and extending greater benefits and opportunities for the business community. I am therefore particularly heartened to learn that the business community and the wider civil society had contributed heavily in producing an effective and relevant national trade policy, through the process of developing the Action Matrix.
I note with satisfaction that the Doha Development Agenda gives considerable attention to technical assistance and capacity building as major tools to address development dimensions of the multilateral trading system. It is imperative that countries such as the Maldives, with relatively weak and vulnerable trade structures, should receive adequate support and assistance in our efforts to integrate into the global trading system.
We also need assistance to develop and strengthen our trade policies, and improve our export supply capacities and trade infrastructure, as well as in finding markets for our products and services.
We deeply appreciate the technical assistance provided by international organizations in these key areas. The Government believes that, as a next logical step, the technical assistance and capacity building assistance provided by all agencies should be aligned with the national objectives that ensures long-term and lasting positive impacts on exports, national employment creation, income generation, and the balance of payments.
The Maldives is today seeking to usher in a modern liberal democracy through wide-ranging reforms in governance and human rights protection. The beneficiaries of the reform agenda that I launched in 2003 will no doubt be the people, and the real benefits will be realised in the form of further improvements in the standard of living.
At this time of exciting change in the country, it is an added pleasure for the Government to be welcoming many of our friends and partners in development for a meeting of such importance for the Maldives.
I am confident that your discussions will be very productive, and that this meeting will prove to be a historic landmark in our efforts to harmonise our trade and development policies with international best practices.
I thank you all for your continued support.