Commonwealth Secretariat advances Pacific’s digital economy with e-commerce initiative

A 3-day regional workshop in Suva, Fiji, focusing on ‘Effective Legal Frameworks for Building the Digital Economy,’ came to a successful conclusion today, reinforcing the Commonwealth’s commitment to fostering resilient digital economies across the Pacific.

The event also marked the formal establishment of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Alliance (PacifEcom) with the signing of a Statement of Intent by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

PacifEcom aims to support e-commerce development in the Pacific region, focusing on raising awareness, mobilising resources, and promoting partner coordination. The Commonwealth Secretariat, a founding member, together with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), which serves as the initiative’s secretariat, extends a warm invitation to implementation agencies who share common goals to express their interest in joining PacifEcom.

Workshop to build robust e-commerce legislation

This week’s workshop was facilitated as a collaborative effort involving the Commonwealth Secretariat, PIFS, the Asia Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). This initiative aligns with Key Priority Area 4 of the Pacific Regional E-commerce Strategy and Roadmap, emphasising the pivotal role of robust E-commerce legislation in nurturing digital commerce across the Pacific region.

The primary objective of the workshop was to enhance capacity, foster awareness, stimulate dialogue, and promote knowledge exchange among influential policymakers, government officials, senior ICT professionals, technocrats, and legal reform officers.

Over the three days, participants had the opportunity to engage with leading experts in various facets of the digital economy through presentations, panel discussions, and group exercises designed to deepen their understanding of the subject matter.

On the opening day of the workshop, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Dr Arjoon Suddhoo said:

“This initiative contributes to our pathway to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that is scheduled to take place in Samoa in 2024, under the theme ‘One Resilient Common Future: Transforming our Common Wealth’.

The Commonwealth family of 56 nations, recognises the importance of developing resilient economies to support recovery from the pandemic, withstand economic uncertainties, and unlock the potential of the private sector. This can be bolstered by the adoption of innovative and transformative technologies and digital solutions that can safeguard the prosperity of our family of nations.”

PIF Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Esala Nayasi, said of the workshop:

“E-commerce presents the potential to facilitate trade, connect our islands, and empower businesses in the digital era. However, doing so correctly is essential. This workshop addresses one of the priority areas of the Regional Strategy, focusing on advancing E-commerce and legal and regulatory frameworks.

Our goal is to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to craft legislation that fosters innovation, protects consumers and the private sector, and builds trust in online marketplaces.”

The workshop received contributions from various regional and international organisations, including the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and more.

Legal Reform and Digitalisation Working Group

The Commonwealth Secretariat also launched the Legal Reform and Digitalisation Working Group, a pivotal step in modernising trade across the Commonwealth.

During the launch, Mr Chris Southworth, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce of the United Kingdom said:

“The Legal Reform and Digitisation Working Group will provide resources, advocacy, technical assistance, information sharing, and policy recommendations to assist Commonwealth member countries in navigating the legal reforms necessary for a smooth transition from paper-based to paperless trade.”

There are 11 Commonwealth member countries in the Pacific, and the Commonwealth extended invitations to them and encouraged active participation in the Working Group. Over 50 officials, private sector representatives, and experts joined the events hosted at PIFS, setting the stage for enhanced E-commerce engagement and growth in the Pacific and beyond.

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