Ms. Olivia Phongkham, the Trade in Services and Investment Adviser with the PACER Plus Implementation Unit (PPIU), shared insights on PACER Plus and its e-commerce initiatives at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) E-Commerce Week in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms. Phongkham’s presentation emphasised the transformative potential of e-commerce, digital trade, and the broader digital economy in accelerating economic recovery, fostering resilience, and promoting inclusive development in Pacific Island Countries.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the pivotal role of technology in enabling businesses to sustain trade operations. E-commerce is a vital tool for businesses, enabling them to surmount physical and economic challenges, foster diversification in goods and services, and enhance market access. Digital and ICT technologies empower micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises and women entrepreneurs to connect with global customers, improve communication within the global and regional value chains, access government e-services, information, and online business training.
Despite its immense potential, Pacific Island Countries encounter challenges such as weak infrastructure, limited inclusive access to ICT and finance, policy and regulatory gaps, skills shortages, and inefficient trade facilitation. The PACER Plus AUD$25 million Development and Economic Cooperation (DEC) work program aims to address these constraints and bolster regional economic integration and connectivity.
The PACER Plus Implementation Unit is actively engaged in collaborative efforts with partner governments, private sectors, and development partners to enhance capacity in the e-commerce sphere. The PACER Plus E-Commerce activities for the financial year 2022-23 include:
- Cook Islands: Conducted an e-commerce regulatory gap analysis in 2022 and launched the E-Commerce Acceleration Work Plan in September 2023.
- Kiribati: Validated Kiribati’s E-Commerce Policy in January 2023 through a national consultation involving 47 participants.
- Samoa: Launched Samoa’s National E-Commerce Strategy in September 2023 in the islands of Upolu and Savai’i.
- Tuvalu: Undertook an assessment and options analysis for expanding the payment ecosystem for e-commerce in Tuvalu in May 2023.
- Regional: Collaborated with the Asian Development Bank on a Regional Workshop on Cross Border E-Commerce in in September 2022.
- Regional: Supported the development and rollout of E-Commerce Business Toolkits to strengthen the start-up ecosystem for MSMEs E-Commerce business ventures in Niue, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu in November 2023.
E-commerce and digital trade are pivotal areas for PACER Plus countries to collaborate with regional and global development partners, fostering productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation, job creation, and access to new markets. PACER Plus is committed to supporting stable, secure, and prosperous Pacific economies through deeper regional economic integration, support diversification and access to new trade opportunities.