Free Trade Agreement With China Tough

Mr Ali said the study by the Ministry of Commerce was necessary as Fiji could not engage in a free trade agreement with China.
05 May 2021 15:57
Free Trade Agreement With China Tough

China could consider duty free trade with Fiji, the Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport ministry has suggested.

Permanent Secretary Shaheen Ali’s comments yesterday followed a virtual submission of annual reports to the Parliament Standing Committee on Economic Affairs.

“What the Chinese side can consider is to look at some of our products that need duty free entry into the Chinese markets,” he said.

Mr Ali said Chinese and Fijians officials were yet to hold a technical session to discuss trade arrangements.

A feasibility study to determine measures of enhancing Fiji’s trade with China concluded last year.

The study followed earlier negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two countries.

He said the study by the Ministry of Commerce was necessary as Fiji could not engage in a free trade agreement with China.

Mr Ali said: “The nature and size of the two economies are very different.

“We had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to negotiate a free trade arrangement.”
China concluded its feasibility study years ago, he said.

“The results of the two studies are very different,” Mr Ali said.
Fiji’s position on the matter was clear, he said.

“We cannot enter into a traditional free trade agreement with China,” Mr Ali said.

MCTTT Success

Mr Ali highlighted there had not been a qualified audit opinion of the Ministry since 2012.

“Our internal systems processes have been robust.

“And we have been robust enough to withstand any changes in the business environment without actually compromising our taxpayers’ money being spent.”

He further said utilisation of funds was high in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 financial years.

“In 2016-2017, we were given around $77 million of which $71 million was utilised. So our utilisation rate was around 93 per cent, and approximately 50 per cent of the budget was allocated to capital projects.”

He said the capital investment was an improvement and added tourism marketing, micro and small business grants (MSBG), and National Development Plan.

“There were the expenditures that also contributed to the 2017-2018 capital expenditure.

“Again, the Ministry utilisation rate was quite high at 94 per cent.”

He said the Ministry had utilised $105 million out of the allocated budget of $108 million.

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

“All our projects were considered crucial, livelihood generating, and targeting a vulnerable sector of the economy; micro, small and medium enterprises,” Mr Ali said.

He said approximately $20 million was devoted to MSMEs and grassroots community development through the Ministry’s various targeted programmes over the two financial years.

Some targeted programmes Mr Ali highlighted were:
– Young Entrepreneurship Scheme
– Micro and Small Business grants (MSBG),
– National Export Strategy,
– Integrated Human Resource

Development Programme (IHRDP)

Mr Ali said the various programmes initiated by the Ministry were in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eliminate poverty, and contribute to economic growth.
Queries sent to the Economy and Commercial Division of the Chinese embassy in Fiji remained unanswered when this edition went to press.


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