Looking forward to good challenges in 2015 - Mona Mato

17/02/2015

Mona Mato is a familiar face among trade circles in the Pacific. Although he has been the Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest Trade Development Manager for the past 3 years, he was previously the go-to man on trade in the Cook Islands.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_6976" align="aligncenter" width="138"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Teremoana-Mato.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-6976" alt="Trade Development Manager, Teremoana Mato" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Teremoana-Mato.jpg" width="138" height="104" /></a> PT&amp;I's Trade Development Manager, Teremoana Mato[/caption]

The former Trade &amp; Marketing Manager of the Cook Islands Development Investment Board (DIB) – now known as the Business Trade &amp; Investment Board, Mona was part of the team led by former CEO Rohan Ellis appointed to operationalise the Development Investment Act in the mid-1990s.

“The experience I developed as the Trade &amp; Marketing Manager, to execute the trade programme and to facilitate trade opportunities for the Cooks, has built a strong foundation of my trade experience at a regional platform,” says Mona.

Before coming to PT&amp;I in 2012, Mona was also the Trade Policy Officer with the Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in the Cook Islands. During his term, he was part of the Cook Islands negotiating team that led to the implementation of the PICTA trade in goods and trade and services agreements.

PT&amp;I’s mandate is to work with export-ready and export capable clients. The best part of delivering the mandate is helping build the business capabilities of suppliers and exporters from the SME sector in the Pacific and watch them grow into capable exporters.

“I enjoy being a part of the journey of a pacific business that harnesses the opportunities in the international market place further build viable and sustainable export businesses,” Mona says.

But a fundamental challenge for the Pacific is its reliance on New Zealand as being the primary market for Pacific Island products and one that has now grown competitively with similar products from the other parts of the world. To counter the competition, the Pacific must think creatively and “outside the box” on diversification and being innovative with products. Value adding and niche markets are the key elements of innovation but also building on already successful exports says Mona.

For Mona, a standout success of 2014 was the PT&amp;I Internship programme (<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp/?p=6914">see accompanying stories</a>).  Trade Officials from PNG and the Republic of the Marshall Islands were stationed at PT&amp;I for 3 weeks and 6 weeks respectively. It was an opportunity to watch them grow in their roles, understanding the dynamics of the international market and building relationships with a range of buyers and importers.

As a result of the internship the PNG Trade Official developed 3 export leadsand  presented his New Zealand market study to PNG’s private sector. The RMI internship, an endorsement of the Government trade policy framework focused on the “Be Marshallese, Buy Marshallese” national campaign.  It was an opportunity to determine international export market opportunities leading to a national export strategy.

“Understanding a country’s export strategy is important as it gives us a platform to work from in targeting market opportunities and market access for trade. For us, it’s essentially the key to helping countries enhance their competitiveness in the international market and to maximise the development benefits for our Pacific people,” says Mona.

This year Mona plans to devote more time to helping established exporters maintain their market presence given strong competition from other countries. Some of the Forum Island country exporters gained market access under the PICTA trade agreement and Mona is keen to further explore intra-regional trade.

“It’s one platform that can help the capabilities of our export businesses when gaining market access to these neighboring pacific member countries.”

With a new Trade Commissioner at the helm, Mona is looking forward to some good challenges ahead in 2015.

“It’s also an exciting year for my home country the Cook Islands as it celebrates 50years of self-government – a year to share the spirit of Kia Orana to the region.”

As a keen sports fan Mona says “As long as there is a Pacific team competing in a sports event in New Zealand (particularly rugby), you will certainly see me in the arena (or my Auckland apartment lounge) flying the Pacific flag!”