Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama visited New Zealand on his first ever official visit last week.
The visit had a strong focus on trade, investment and agriculture besides diplomatic meetings between the Prime Ministers, senior ministers and officials of the two countries. However, the strong people to people ties that have long existed between the two countries were a recurring theme throughout the visit.
Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Auckland worked closely with the Fiji High Commission in Wellington in organising this first official government-to-government visit in ten years.
The visit started with the Fresh Produce Trade Forum, a seminar on fresh produce, in which industry players from both countries participated. Michael Greenslade, PT&I Trade Commissioner and Ian Furlong, Trade Development Manager, each chaired key sessions. The outcome of the agriculture seminar was an endorsement by Fiji Agriculture Minister Inia Seraratu for a transformational strategy to be implemented for Fiji fresh produce exports to New Zealand in the future.
The second day was the Fiji Trade & Investment Symposium coordinated by Zarak Khan of the Fiji Trade Commission in Sydney and Godo Mueller Teut, Chief Executive Officer of Investment Fiji. This important event was opened by PM Bainimarama, who in his keynote address, set the scene for his visit to New Zealand.
The Prime Minister spoke at length about the historic people to people relationship between the two countries. He particularly praised the generosity and the ever willingness of Kiwis to help Fijians in the wake of natural disasters like the devastating Cyclone Winston earlier this year. He said it was always great to see the Kiwi navy, air force and the great ‘Kiwi can do’ attitude coming to Fiji’s aid during the rehabilitation and rebuilding process following disasters such as Winston.
Mr Bainimarama invited Kiwi businesses to ride the wave of unprecedented economic growth in Fiji by investing in wide ranging projects. “We have had seven years of year-on-year growth – the longest ever in the history of Fiji,” Mr Bainimarama said.
Trade between the two countries has kept pace with the rate of Fiji’s economic growth in recent years. Two-way trade amounts to F$700 million and is growing while numbers of Kiwis visiting Fiji for holidays has been rising rapidly. New Zealand is Fiji’s second largest tourism market. This year Fiji is expected to receive the highest ever number of Kiwis holidaying in Fiji, Mr Bainimarama said.
With more than half the nation a tax free zone for a raft of investment types, Fiji is an attractive destination for investment in the region, the Prime Minister said. The Fijian Government was continuing with its own big ticket investments in roads, airports and seaports, ultrafast internet connectivity and infrastructure around new tax-free zones across the country.
Mr Bainimarama’s 25-strong entourage comprised ministers and senior officials from several ministries, Government organisations and high performing private sector companies especially in the telecommunications and high tech sectors. The symposium, which more than 100 people attended, was a showcase of the many exciting possibilities that Fiji offers to investors across a range of sectors like infrastructure, building, technology, transportation, manufacturing and agribusiness.
New Zealand Economic Ambassador to the Pacific, Matua Shane Jones, responded on behalf of the New Zealand Government with a very welcome ‘let bygones be bygones’ approach.
Speaking to Pacific Periscope after the official addresses, Trade Commissioner Greenslade said, “The strong impression delegates received was that Fiji was moving forward and was open for business.”
PT&I Auckland worked with the organisers to build the programme and get appropriate speakers as also sponsors for the end of the day cocktail networking function.
Fiji’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya who addressed delegates at the cocktail function reinforced the wide range of investment opportunities and the Fiji Government’s incentives for investment.
Following the cocktails, the New Zealand Fiji Business Council hosted a formal dinner, which was over-subscribed by members of that organisation. Chairman Chandar Sen welcomed guests and spoke of strong relationship between New Zealand and Fiji.
Prime Minister Bainimarama once again spoke glowingly of the strong people to people relationship between New Zealand and Fiji that had always existed and thanked the people of New Zealand for their help and support during Cyclone Winston.
He also detailed his programme with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Prime Minister John Key over the next two days including his attendance at the Bledisloe Cup game on Saturday evening.
“Unlike the Commerce minister, the Prime Minister seemed to be strongly in the All Blacks Camp,” Mr Greenslade quipped.
“PT&I Auckland is delighted with the direct approach from the Fiji High Commission to assist with this week and we are very happy that this opportunity was such a success. We are happy to provide similar support to any other delegations and trade missions from the Pacific,” he added.
For more information please email Ian Furlong, PT&I Trade Development Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org