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A Crucial Business Council Meeting For Fijian Business Community

The Australia-Fiji Business Council Forum in Suva tomorrow is a critical meeting for Fiji. Critical in the sense that there is a huge trade imbalance between the two countries, in
30 Oct 2014 16:55
A Crucial Business Council Meeting For Fijian Business Community
Republic of Fiji Military Forces troops with New Zealand Defence Force troops on pre-depolyment training for Peacekeeping duties. Photo: Mereleki Nai FIJI SUN | TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2019 | FIJISUN.COM.FJ 20 NATION NZ High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr delivering the training opening address at the Black Rock Camp in Nadi on July

The Australia-Fiji Business Council Forum in Suva tomorrow is a critical meeting for Fiji.

Critical in the sense that there is a huge trade imbalance between the two countries, in favour of Australia. The obvious challenge is how can we reduce this imbalance.

Records show that last year Fiji imported A$303 million (F$509 million) in Australian merchandise trade. It exported A$162 million (F$272 million) to Australia.

The nearly 50 per cent deficit indicates our dependence on imports. The situation is exacerbated by our currency exchange rate which at the current level always puts the Aussies at an advantage.

However, according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statistical records Fiji earned A$982 million worth of export of services to Australia and imported A$131 million.

Australia still ranks at the top of Fiji’s export destinations. But we import more now from Singapore (31.8 per cent) than Australia (18.3 per cent) and New Zealand (13.9 per cent).

Australia, therefore, is still our top market for exports. It is for this reason that tomorrow’s meeting is a big one for Fiji, especially when it will be attended by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. She is a good friend of Fiji and has been keen to strengthen our bilateral ties. Her presence shows that Canberra is treating this meeting seriously.

One of the major issues that Fiji will raise with her is the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA).

For Fiji, this agreement will expire on December 31 and it needs to be renewed with an extension, otherwise garment exporters will not to be able to enjoy the concessions they now have.

SPARTECA in a non-reciprocal trade agreement under which Australia and New Zealand offer duty free and unrestricted or concessional access for virtually all products originating from the developing island member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The Agreement includes provisions for general economic, commercial and technical co-operation, safeguard provisions relating to dumped and subsidised goods and suspension of obligations, and provisions for general exceptions and revenue duties.

This is also a sensitive time because Fiji has declared its position about rejoining the PIF, saying it has conditions that need to be considered.

One of the conditions is that Australia and New Zealand give up their seats in the Pacific Islands Forum and focus on their roles as funders for regional development.

This is also a great opportunity for Fijian members of the business council to clear any issues that may be of concern to them. And Ms Bishop may be able to answer them on the spot.




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