What Our PM Told His Japanese Counterpart

Here’s an edited extract of key points from what Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they met in Tokyo last night: Honourable Prime Minister, I
20 May 2015 10:54
What Our PM Told His Japanese Counterpart
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama (sitting fourth from left) with Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan Isikeli Mataitoga (second from left) and Fijian Government officials and translators during his meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo last night. Photo: Jyoti Pratibha

Here’s an edited extract of key points from what Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as they met in Tokyo last night:

Honourable Prime Minister, I extend my sincere thanks to you for the opportunity to hold this bilateral meeting and convey to you the warmest greetings of the Fijian Government and Fijian people.  It is a great pleasure to be in Japan and especially to attend the PALM Summit with my fellow Pacific Island leaders.

As you know, I was excluded from the previous PALM gathering, something that Fiji regarded as deeply regrettable.

I, however, now welcome the opportunity to make up for lost ground in the relationship between our nations.

I am very pleased that this period of void in the Japanese-Fijian relationship is now behind us. And I now look forward to building on the long-standing friendship between the Fijian and Japanese peoples.

For Fiji’s part, I would ask that Japan deal with Fiji in a more open and direct manner – and with a greater appreciation of our own position – rather than to take advice from third parties about the relationship.

We seek the closest possible ties with Japan on a one to one basis and are very pleased by the renewed warmth that now characterises our relationship.

We would like Japan – as a longstanding friend – to be at the forefront of partnering with us to take Fiji forward. And to ride the wave of optimism that has accompanied our new democracy.

Bilateral Issues for Consideration

1. High Level Political Visits between our two countries:

We are keen to expand high level visits between our two countries as a means of strengthening our relationship generally.

Our meeting here today revitalises the relationship at the highest level. And we would like this to be the beginning of an engagement between our nations that is more wide-ranging.

At Government-to-Government and at business levels. And, of course, between our peoples in the form of an increasing number of Japanese visiting Fiji and Fijians visiting Japan.

In this context, as Prime Minister of Fiji, I wish to formally extend an invitation to you today as Prime Minister of Japan,to visit Fiji as soon as practicable.

In the recent past, we have hosted – as honoured guests – the leaders of China, India and Indonesia, among others. And it would be a great honour for us to host a delegation led by you.

Such a visit would be the first by a Japanese Prime Minister to Fiji since the visit of Prime Minister Nakasone in 1985, 30 years ago. I can assure you that the warmest of welcomes awaits you in Fiji and would hope that a visit could take place before the end of the year.

2. Market Access for Fijian products to the Japanese Markets:

Under the Fijian-made banner, Fiji has been steadily expanding export markets for its goods and services, some of which have achieved global status and recognition.

We have strong export markets in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union and a host of destinations around the world.

And we believe there are many opportunities to expand the market for Fijian-made goods and services in Japan.

Some Fijian products have already entered the Japanese market.

They include natural water, cosmetics and, of course, our fish exports – mainly fresh tuna and processed tuna – which are among our biggest exports to Japan.

We especially seek Japanese Government support for access to your market of Fijian exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and certain spa and wellness products. We ask that your Government consider how these can be accommodated in terms of the strict quarantine procedures that currently apply and are restricting or preventing these exports.

We also ask that some of the preferential access currently being afforded to Australian products also be extended to Fiji. We note that in the context of Japan/Australia Free Trade Agreement, Australian exporters are treated with a certain amount of flexibility in gaining market access to Japan. It would be a great step forward for our relationship if the same flexibility could be shown to Fijian exporters.

These, of course, are areas that can be followed up in detail by our respective ministers and senior officials.

3. Joint Promotion for Business/Investment supporting Japanese Small to Medium Enterprises in Fiji;

Honourable Prime Minister, while the volume of our bilateral business and investment relations is small, the potential is enormous.  We can increase this volume both in terms of Japanese businesses entering into business arrangements with Fijian businesses, and through direct investment, especially from Japanese Small to Medium Enterprises in Fiji.

Honourable Prime Minister, I would like to ask the Japanese Government through you to partner with our Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism – to facilitate a workshop in Fiji that brings together Government representatives and interested Japanese and Fijian business leaders. Such a gathering would focus on the potential to expand trade and investment between our countries.

Another important framework that would enhance bilateral trade & investment is for Fiji and Japan to negotiate an Investment Agreement. I understand some initial discussions have already taken place in this respect.

4.Support for Major Public Utilities Projects:

Honourable Prime Minister , I specifically seek your support to implement a major public utility project in Fiji: the NADI RIVER REALIGNMENT PROJECT. There is already some support in the Japanese Government for this project. But it is of great importance to Fiji and I ask that it be fast tracked as a matter of urgency.

The town of Nadi and the surrounding area forms one of the most important economic contributors to the Fijian economy and a source of livelihood for numerous Fijians.

It is a centre for tourism, the largest contributor to our GDP. Yet it is constantly at the mercy of floodwaters from the river that flows through the town. And in two recent incidents, Nadi was submerged and the entire community devastated.

In early 2012, the Fijian Government requested the Japanese Government to undertake a feasibility study into this project and I am advised that study has been completed.

I want to take this opportunity to ask you for your personal support for this project and as Prime Minister to encourage your senior officials to make it a priority.

Each year of delay in implementing this project means continuing uncertainty for Nadi and its inhabitants and the continuing threat of disaster.

The cost to public infrastructure alone from the flood in 2012 is estimated at around $80 million and damage to businesses and crops amounted to around $120 million. So this is a matter of extreme gravity for the Fijian Government and Fijian people.

5. Reciprocal Visa Exemption Arrangements:

Honourable Prime Minister, I also seek your support for a reciprocal visa exemption arrangement between Fiji and Japan.

In making this request, I note that both the Okinawa Declaration of PALM 6 and the Draft Declaration for PALM 7 contain provisions for the leaders to consider this issue.

For Fiji, we ask that this be negotiated as a bilateral matter and that an early agreement be reached. We regard the free flow of visitors between our countries as a critical factor in developing our trade, investment and the promotion of tourism.

For your information, Fiji already has in place  Reciprocal Visa Free Arrangements with China, Russia, Korea and India. And all these arrangements are operating smoothly.

We also have currently under consideration the same arrangement with the European Union, Indonesia and Thailand.

A similar agreement with Japan would be a critical factor in expanding our people-to-people exchanges and boosting levels of tourism and trade.

6. Fijian Parliament:

Honourable Prime Minister, our first genuinely democratic Parliament in Fiji is less than 9 months old. I am aware that a Japan/Fiji Parliamentary Friendship League has been established in the Japanese Parliament.

I hope that representatives of this group will soon be able to visit Fiji to meet their Fijian counterparts and also strengthen the ties between our Parliaments and our countries.

I also seek the support of the Japanese Government to enable a group of Fijian Parliamentarians to visit Japan. In similar visits to the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, our MPs have been able to gain valuable insights into parliamentary processes.

7. Japanese Investment in Public Utilities Sector in Fiji:

The Fijian Government is undergoing a major expansion of the country’s infrastructure as well as undertaking a comprehensive program of modernising existing public utilities through outsourcing.

We encourage Japanese Companies to submit expressions for such projects. There are also other investment opportunities in areas of renewable energy and tourism.

8. Natural Disaster Resilience:

Honourable Prime Minister, Fiji also seeks the support of the Japanese Government to enhance our ability to deal with natural disasters. In making this request, I am mindful that under the Sendai Initiative Framework you announced during the 3rd UN World Disaster Risk & Resilience Conference, the funding provided through that initiative is geared towards projects that will improve the capacity of countries in national disaster risk assessment and resilience.

With this in mind, we seek Japanese Government support in the followings areas:

n National Disaster Risk Management & Resilience Capacity Building;

n Improving the resilience of Agriculture and Fisheries in Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries. This includes training and work attachment placements to develop the skills of small holders operating farms as businesses; and to upskill those in the aquaculture and horticulture sectors.

Fiji is keen to also play a facilitating role in hosting any regional initiative such as training that the Japanese Government may want to provide. This, as you are aware, we are already doing in the area of training for Pacific Island civil servants facilitated by the Japanese Government.

9. Invitation to Visit Fiji – Late 2015

Honourable Prime Minister, I close by repeating my invitation for you to visit Fiji sometime in 2015.

I do so in the firm belief that this would be a tangible expression to our own people and the world that we have embarked on a new era of friendship and co-operation. I also have a strong desire to reciprocate the hospitality and generosity shown to me on this visit.

The Fijian people are renowned throughout the world for their hospitality and I can assure you of the warmest of welcomes when you eventually visit our shores.



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