This forum is the first of its kind. We are creating momentum to engage with each other and strengthen our fraternity with fellow Pacific countries and territories
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The first ever Pacific Exposition highlighting the region’s business, investment, and tourism potential began in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 11, 2019 at Indonesia’s initiative, supported by the governments of New Zealand and Australia. Themed “Creating Pacific Momentum”, the expo sees the participation of 123 companies, officials, businessmen, and artists from 20 Pacific countries. These are Solomon Island, Australia, Cook Island, Federated States of Micronesia, and Fiji, in addition to French Polynesia, Indonesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and New Zealand. Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa are also participating along with Timor Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia.

“This forum is the first of its kind. We are creating momentum to engage with each other and strengthen our fraternity with fellow Pacific countries and territories," Foreign Minister Retno L. P. Marsudi said.

The Pacific Exposition, which concludes on July 14, includes a range of events from the Tourism Forum (July 11), the Business and Investment Forum (July 12), the Pacific Cultural Forum (July 13), and the Sound of the Pacific Concert (July 14).

The expo was officially opened by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, together with other Pacific countries’ leaders, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters, and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in the presence of some 400 guests.

Pacific Exposition 2019 will connect the dots between the 17,000 Indonesian islands and the thousands of Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand, according to Retno Marsudi.

During the Pacific Business and Investment Forum, the Indonesian state enterprises (BUMN) met with CEOs of some 100 companies looking to take advantage of the regional economic potential worth US$2.6 trillion in GDP, in addition to its 300 million inhabitants. Also attending were a number of Indonesian state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina, Inalum, Garuda Indonesia, Telkomsel, and state-owned banks.

An Indonesian business delegation reached New Zealand on July 9, 2019, on behalf of the Trade Ministry looking to expand the export market to the Pacific countries. It returns to Indonesia on July 14.

"New Zealand and other Pacific countries are potential trade partners for Indonesia," Trade Ministry's General Director of Export Expansion Arlinda noted.

The trade delegation to New Zealand highlights a mission to boost partnership with Indonesia by enhancing mobilization of people, goods, and services as well as connectivity between eastern Indonesia and the Pacific.

The Indonesian government facilitated 30 companies engaged in various businesses, including food and beverage, textile and fashion, energy, infrastructure, and services, finance, skilled labor agency, hotel, and aesthetics.

"One-third of Indonesian territory is located in the Pacific Ocean. Hence, we hope this event would increase Indonesia's presence and role in the region as well as push an integrated market in the Pacific," Arlinda noted.

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The trade between Indonesia and the Pacific region reached US$10.67 billion in 2018, an increase of 3.05 percent, from $10.37 billion recorded in the previous year. This year, trade between January and March was valued at $42.04 billion. Coal, bitumen, dairy products, wheat, steel, and raw sugar are Indonesia's main imports from the region.

Australia, New Zealand, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji are Indonesia's main export destinations in the Pacific, with several commodities and products, ranging from palm oil and tobacco to tires and electronic components.

Tantowi Yahya, Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, said that ministers from seven Pacific countries arrived at the expo where they had discussions with representatives of BUMN for an hour.

"To achieve the targets, the BUMN Forum made a presentation on strategic industries' products such as telecommunication, defense, securities printing, and transportation including railway and energy," he said.

The First Pacific Exposition is a trade, investment and tourism event, designed to facilitate the South Pacific countries to promote their economic opportunities, Yahya said earlier, in his opening remarks.

"The exposition is also the first step towards connecting goods and people in the Pacific and Southeast Asia," he said.

With such vast untapped potential, there is a growing need to promote what Pacific countries have to offer, in particular to their neighboring regions. Being its closest neighbor, Southeast Asia holds potential and challenges that are waiting to be revealed.

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Regional cooperation is essential to maximize national benefits, especially in terms of improved connectivity, product development, and joint marketing as a single major brand in goods and tourism, Yahya stated.

On the sidelines of the expo, Minister Retno Marsudi held bilateral meetings with leaders of nine Pacific nations on climate change, natural disaster mitigation, and cooperation in skills and capacity building.

"The nine bilateral meetings are with New Zealand, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Australia, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Solomon Island, Cook Island, Niue, and the Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)," she said.

In addition, Indonesia signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on establishing diplomatic relations with Cook Island and Niue in Auckland.

Pacific nations are among the priorities of Indonesia's foreign policy, as they are unwittingly part of the large family of the region, Retno Marsudi affirmed.

Indonesia, which is located in Southeast Asian region, is also part of the Pacific. So, there is no harm and is a necessity to strengthen brotherhood in the form of cooperation with other Pacific nations.

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Editor: Azizah Fitriyanti
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