EDITORIAL : PM’s New Emphasis On Trade In Diplomacy A Positive Move
The emphasis on trade that Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Voreqe Bainimarama mentioned, as he “steadily reforms” the foreign affairs, is welcome. In fact, it is overdue. While diplomacy is the overarching principle that governs our international commitments and obligations, trade makes it more meaningful.
Through trade we build relations with other countries. Relations do not have to be a one way traffic. At the moment, that seems to be the trend with some of our trading partners, resulting in big trade imbalance. We import more goods from them than we export to them. The challenge is to reduce those trade deficits.
As our economy continues to expand so too the opportunities to grow our exports. The opening of new markets for Fijian-made items is critical. That’s where the role of our foreign missions is absolutely crucial in facilitating moves that will bring about positive change.
The relocation of our Fijian diplomatic mission from Pretoria to Addis Ababa was a smart move because we recognise the leading role that Ethopia plays in the region.
Ethiopia and the African Union have forged key alliances with Pacific Small Island States in overcoming development challenges, particularly within the sustainable development goals framework.
Ethiopia is an influential member of the African Union. It has recorded remarkable economic growth and Addis Ababa is increasingly becoming an important hub.
We have more diplomatic missions now than ever before. The reforms will no doubt ensure that each mission justifies its existence by helping the country develop and grow our export trade.
Mr Bainimarama says he intends to refine certain aspects of our foreign policy and give it a new direction and a renewed sense of purpose.
He says trade will be at the centre of our foreign policy effort – the promotion of the impressive collection of quality products and services under the Fijian Made brand.
The plan to increase the level of collaboration between our Foreign Ministry and our Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, is a positive move. Previously, they have too often operated in isolation.
With trade now the priority, things would have to change in diplomatic missions. Mindset would have to change.
When Mr Bainimarama stood on the United Nations General Assembly podium in New York yesterday and spoke about Fiji’s vision, it felt like we are on the cusp of greater things to come for this country.
Mr Bainimarama himself recognises it.
He says “never before has our nation had a stronger presence in New York, presiding now over the deliberations of the community of nations. Never before has a Pacific island country attained such a lofty position in the UN system.
It is, in many ways, a coming of age not just for Fiji but for the entire region. And cause for immense satisfaction and pride.
He was referring to Peter Thomson, former Fijian Permanent Representative to the UN, now president of the 71st UNGA. Fiji is also applying for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council. It is also seeking an observer seat in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
If it gets accepted, it will boost its international profile.
The exposure will benefit Fiji in many ways, including trade.
Let’s face it, countries are active on the international stage to also promote and protect their economic interests. Fiji is no exception.
The bid by the PM to push for trade is a smart and prudent move.