PM’s speech at Fiji Trade and In­vest­ment Sym­po­sium

PRIME MIN­IS­TER IN­VITES NEW ZEALAND ME­DIA TO SEE FIJI’S SUC­CESS THEM­SELVES ‘For all our in­vest­ment in­cen­tives, for all our at­trac­tive tax rates, I believe that it is the qual­ity of our peo­ple that is the best rea­son to in­vest in Fiji or to grow your ex­isti

Fiji Sun - - Front Page -

The fol­low­ing is the ad­dress by the Prime Min­is­ter at the Fiji Trade and In­vest­ment Sym­po­sium in Auck­land, New Zealand yes­ter­day

The honourable Fi­jian Min­is­ter for In­dus­try Trade and Tourism,

Your ex­cel­lency, the Fi­jian High Com­mis­sioner to New Zealand. The Chair­man and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of In­vest­ment Fiji,

Mem­bers of our re­spec­tive busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties, Ladies and gen­tle­men, B

ula vinaka and a very good morn­ing to you all. I’m de­lighted to be in New Zealand for my first of­fi­cial visit to the coun­try and to ad­dress this Fiji Trade and In­vest­ment Sym­po­sium – the first of my en­gage­ments over the next few days.

The fact that it is the first en­gage­ment un­der­lines the im­por­tance my Govern­ment places on ex­pand­ing our trade with New Zealand. As part of our wider push to take Fiji’s trade with the world to an­other level.

Im­por­tance of NZ mar­ket to Fiji

New Zealand is a very im­por­tant mar­ket for us and let me be­gin by giv­ing you all a brief snap­shot of why. Two way trade in goods and ser­vices on av­er­age is worth al­most FJ$700 mil­lion a year. And in terms of our tourism in­dus­try and Fiji’s big­gest rev­enue earner, New Zealand is our sec­ond largest source mar­ket. With more than 120-thou­sand Kiwi vis­i­tors each year con­tribut­ing more than $200-mil­lion to the Fi­jian econ­omy. New Zealand vis­i­tor arrivals are in­creas­ingly buoy­ant. In fact over the past two years, we’ve seen the largest in­crease from New Zealand of any of our mar­kets. And pro­vi­sional monthly arrivals in Au­gust were up 15 per cent over the same pe­riod last year to reach a to­tal of more than 20-thou­sand. So more New Zealan­ders are visit­ing Fiji, with all that en­tails for the pros­per­ity of our tourism sec­tor. And as you will all dis­cover as the day pro­ceeds, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for New Zealan­ders to in­vest in Fiji and strengthen our over­all trad­ing re­la­tion­ship have also never been bet­ter.

In­vest­ment cli­mate

Last Fri­day, I ad­dressed a sim­i­lar trade and in­vest­ment sym­po­sium in Syd­ney. And while there are some dif­fer­ences be­tween the Aus­tralian and New Zealand mar­kets, there are also some strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in terms of the over­all in­vest­ment cli­mate. And not least is the dra­matic im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of Fiji’s po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic en­gage­ment with both the New Zealand and Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ments. Which is fi­nally be­gin­ning to match the ex­cel­lent peo­ple to peo­ple ties that have al­ways ex­isted be­tween our peo­ples. As many of you will al­ready know, I will be hav­ing my sec­ond bi­lat­eral meet­ing in Welling­ton on Satur­day with your Prime Min­is­ter, John Key. I want to say in ad­vance of that meet­ing that I deeply ap­pre­ci­ated Mr Key’s ges­ture in com­ing to Suva back in June, where we had our first en­counter and were able to give the Prime Min­is­ter a warm Fi­jian wel­come.

I was es­pe­cially grat­i­fied to be able to con­vey to him, face to face, the ab­so­lute grat­i­tude of the Fi­jian peo­ple for New Zealand’s as­sis­tance in the wake of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston back in Fe­bru­ary. The ar­rival in Fiji of so many Kiwi men and women in uni­form aboard your air­craft and HMAS Can­ter­bury was deeply ap­pre­ci­ated. And their car­ing, “can do” at­ti­tude to help Fi­jians in the af­fected ar­eas back on their feet is some­thing we will never for­get.

NZ me­dia’s por­trayal

It’s un­for­tu­nate that some of the New Zealand me­dia re­port­ing of the Prime Min­is­ter’s visit back in June sug­gested that I had given Mr Key a hard time. It’s true that I po­litely out­lined to him the rea­sons why we had cho­sen to em­bark on a rad­i­cal pro­gramme in 2006 to cre­ate a level play­ing field for ev­ery Fi­jian. And that we had ful­filled our prom­ise to re­turn Fiji to par­lia­men­tary rule in the elec­tion of Septem­ber, 2014. I also said that it was a shame that New Zealand, Aus­tralia and cer­tain other coun­tries had failed to un­der­stand what we were try­ing to do – which was to in­tro­duce gen­uine democ­racy for the first time in Fiji and guar­an­tee the rights of ev­ery Fi­jian in the 2013 Con­sti­tu­tion.

Yet far from be­ing the in­sult that some mem­bers of the me­dia chose to cast it as, I think John Key un­der­stood that the speech I made was merely out­lin­ing our po­si­tion and that no dis­re­spect was in­tended. The in­dig­na­tion was on the part of some of the New Zealand me­dia, not the Prime Min­is­ter, and un­doubt­edly be­cause I also crit­i­cised their un­re­lent­ingly neg­a­tive and un­bal­anced re­port­ing of events in Fiji. But away from their gaze, the at­mos­phere be­tween John Key and I per­son­ally was very cor­dial and we got on fa­mously.

It’s true that I’ve had a cou­ple of is­sues with him say­ing that I’d shot my mouth off about the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum or that he hoped we weren’t go­ing to be “silly” about en­forc­ing the pro­vi­sions of our Pub­lic Or­der Act. But it hasn’t un­duly af­fected the warmth of our re­la­tion­ship. He knows that I’m Frank by name and Frank by na­ture and I know that he’s a sim­i­larly plain speak­ing Kiwi. Which is un­doubt­edly why the New Zealand peo­ple keep vot­ing him back into of­fice. So we’re big enough to say what we think and then move on. And I want to thank him for be­ing a straight shooter, for not tak­ing things too per­son­ally and es­pe­cially for giv­ing me the op­por­tu­nity to get to­gether with him again in New Zealand and en­joy each other’s com­pany. In the sim­i­lar rough and tum­ble of the Bledis­loe Cup rugby match that we will be at­tend­ing to­gether at Eden Park on Satur­day night. This time it will be the Ki­wis and Aussies slug­ging it out and no-one can blame me for any­thing. But I do hope both for John Key’s sake and be­cause I’m a guest of the New Zealand peo­ple that the All Blacks win. Ladies and gen­tle­men, I also come with a mes­sage for the New Zealand me­dia. Now that the bans on in­di­vid­ual jour­nal­ists visit­ing Fiji have been lifted, you are wel­come - without ex­cep­tion - to visit Fiji like the jour­nal­ists of other coun­tries. You are free to re­port without re­stric­tion once you’ve been ac­cred­ited in the usual way by our De­part­ment of In­for­ma­tion. And all we ask is that you cover events fairly and in a bal­anced man­ner, which is the obli­ga­tion of jour­nal­ists the world over. I hope you will come and see for your­selves the progress we have made on the back of seven straight years of eco­nomic growth – the long­est in Fi­jian history. And to see for your­selves that our in­sti­tu­tions of State are func­tion­ing prop­erly and we are strength­en­ing those in­sti­tu­tions as we move for­ward. To en­sure that they are truly in­de­pen­dent and free from po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal in­flu­ence, as hap­pened far too often in the past.

Aim to take re­la­tion­ship with New Zealand to the next level

Ladies and gen­tle­men, I’ve come to New Zealand from Aus­tralia, where there has al­ready been a dra­matic im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of our of­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship. A month ago, I had the plea­sure of a very cor­dial meet­ing in New York with the Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter, Malcolm Turn­bull. And Mr Turn­bull called me again on the tele­phone a few nights ago. We’ve agreed to take our per­sonal re­la­tion­ship and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween our gov­ern­ments to an­other level. And my agenda on this New Zealand visit is pre­cisely the same in re­la­tion to John Key and his min­is­ters– to strengthen the qual­ity of our en­gage­ment and bring our na­tions even closer to­gether. Of course, we will al­ways have our dif­fer­ences, such as on the Pacer Plus trade ne­go­ti­a­tions. But I believe th­ese dif­fer­ences can be worked through much more ef­fec­tively in this new era of good­will. Be­cause, as I said in Syd­ney, now more than ever - given the un­cer­tain global out­look -na­tions with shared his­to­ries and val­ues must stick to­gether. We must never al­low those things that di­vide us to take prece­dence over the things that bind us to­gether. And es­pe­cially when Fiji and New Zealand share our par­tic­u­lar cor­ner of the world and share the warm per­sonal links be­tween our peo­ples. Let me re­peat what I said about Pacer Plus last week be­fore I move on to other things. Be­cause I know many of you in the room are seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion on Fiji’s po­si­tion in re­la­tion to th­ese im­por­tant ne­go­ti­a­tions. Fiji has em­phat­i­cally not with­drawn from Pacer Plus. We are still at the table. Yet nei­ther are we pre­pared to sign the doc­u­ment in its cur­rent form be­cause we sim­ply don’t believe that it is in our in­ter­ests to do so.

On two crit­i­cal is­sues – In­fant In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment and Most Favoured Na­tion sta­tus – we believe the cur­rent le­gal text not only fails to meet our re­quire­ments. If im­ple­mented, it would have an ad­verse im­pact on our de­vel­op­ment and the de­vel­op­ment of our Pa­cific Is­land neigh­bours.

Fiji wants an en­dur­ing, pre­dictable and sus­tain­able trade agree­ment be­tween New Zealand and Aus­tralia on the one hand and the Pa­cific Is­lands on the other. And in our view we still haven’t got one in th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions thus far. The cur­rent doc­u­ment is too one sided, too re­stric­tive, places too many obli­ga­tions on us that we can­not af­ford to meet.

We need more flex­i­bil­ity, a recog­ni­tion that we are a de­vel­op­ing coun­try and more con­ces­sions to en­able us to have trad­ing re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers. So I re­peat: we can­not sign the cur­rent doc­u­ment.

We will, how­ever, keep talk­ing. Keep seek­ing an out­come that suits all par­ties. And only if New Zealand and Aus­tralia ul­ti­mately refuse to be flex­i­ble on the key con­cerns of Fiji and other Pa­cific is­land na­tions will we walk away. I per­son­ally hope that day never comes. That in this in­stance, the New Zealand Govern­ment and the New Zealand Par­lia­ment will come to see the jus­tice of our po­si­tion. And I ask you all in the New Zealand busi­ness com­mu­nity to sup­port us. Be­cause what we are ask­ing for is rea­son­able. And it is fair.

Trade and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties

Ladies and gen­tle­men, I es­pe­cially come to you today with an ap­peal to take a fresh look at the trade and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Fiji. And to play your own part in the eco­nomic rein­vig­o­ra­tion of our re­la­tion­ship to match the new po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic re-en­gage­ment be­tween our na­tions.

Today, you will hear a great deal about the many ben­e­fits of in­vest­ing in Fiji – our po­si­tion as Hub of the Pa­cific; our rapidly im­prov­ing in­fra­struc­ture – bet­ter roads, bet­ter air­ports, more ef­fi­cient ports; our gen­eral con­nec­tiv­ity and world class telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions; our in­vest­ment in­cen­tives, in­clud­ing duty con­ces­sions, in­vest­ment al­lowances and some of the low­est cor­po­rate and per­sonal taxes in the re­gion.

As I keep say­ing at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity: Fiji is open for busi­ness. And our peo­ple here today are keen to show you the ben­e­fits. Whether it is my In­dus­try, Trade and Tourism Min­is­ter, Faiyaz Koya; his Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Sha­heen Ali, and our Di­rec­tor of Trade, Seema Sharma; the CEO of In­vest­ment Fiji, Godo Mueller-Teut; or our High Com­mis­sioner in Welling­ton, Fil­imoni Waqabaca.

All of th­ese peo­ple are keen to ex­plain the ben­e­fits of in­vest­ing in Fiji or ex­pand­ing your in­vest­ment in Fiji and I urge you all to take ad­van­tage of their ex­per­tise.

Above all, ladies and gen­tle­men, I want to use this op­por­tu­nity – as I did in Syd­ney - to highlight the one thing that I guar­an­tee you will never find any­where else but Fiji. And that is the qual­ity of our peo­ple. As you know, Fi­jians are fa­mous the world over for their friend­li­ness and hos­pi­tal­ity – so much so that we pro­claim our­selves as the place “where hap­pi­ness finds you”. We’re even hap­pier than usual our­selves th­ese days. Be­cause for all the con­tin­u­ing chal­lenges we face re­cov­er­ing to Cy­clone Win­ston, the en­tire na­tion has been on an un­prece­dented high after our World Cham­pion Rugby Sevens Team brought back Olympic gold from Rio. We’re de­ter­mined to har­ness that win­ning Olympic spirit and chan­nel it into all ar­eas of na­tional life. So as well as our hos­pi­tal­ity and friend­ship, there’s an­other side to the Fi­jian peo­ple that I want to share with you all today as busi­ness peo­ple. And that is our work ethic, loy­alty and ea­ger­ness to learn. To im­prove our­selves and to work as a team like our Olympic he­roes for the com­mon good, whether it is as a na­tion, a sport­ing team or a com­pany.

In­cen­tives

For all our in­vest­ment in­cen­tives, for all our at­trac­tive tax rates, I believe that it is the qual­ity of our peo­ple that is the best rea­son to in­vest in Fiji or to grow your ex­ist­ing busi­ness. With a lit­er­acy rate ap­proach­ing 94 per cent, our peo­ple are ed­u­cated, English speak­ing and be­com­ing smarter all the time.

My Govern­ment’s ed­u­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion is our proud­est achieve­ment and the cor­ner­stone of our na­tion’s de­vel­op­ment. For the first time, we have in­tro­duced free school­ing at pri­mary and sec­ondary level. Along with more schol­ar­ships for higher ed­u­ca­tion and a ter­tiary loans scheme.

As well as our three uni­ver­si­ties, we have es­tab­lished a net­work of tech­ni­cal col­leges through­out the coun­try to pro­vide Fiji with the skills base it needs to pros­per. And to pro­vide you – as em­ploy­ers - with a work­force that is more for­mally qual­i­fied than at any other time in Fi­jian history. So, ladies and gen­tle­men, we have the peo­ple. And we have the poli­cies. And we also have the most sta­ble pe­riod in Fi­jian history to en­able in­vest­ment to flour­ish. We have put be­hind us the lost years. The years in which we ar­gued about who among us de­served more rather than work­ing to­gether as one peo­ple to take our na­tion for­ward. With ev­ery­one now en­joy­ing the com­mon iden­tity of be­ing Fi­jian, there is a new sense of be­long­ing. A new sense of unity. A new sense of pur­pose. And with that feel­ing of in­clu­sive­ness - of tak­ing ev­ery­one with us on our jour­ney for­ward - we have en­tered a new era of con­fi­dence and sus­tained growth in the Fi­jian econ­omy. Just as im­por­tant, we are us­ing our rel­a­tive wealth not to prop up re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture – as pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments did – but to in­vest in new in­fra­struc­ture. And to do much more to im­prove the lives of dis­ad­van­taged Fi­jians by pro­vid­ing them with such things a ssub­sidised elec­tric­ity and free wa­ter and medicine, along with the na­tion’s first ever so­cial se­cu­rity pen­sions. All this has been pos­si­ble be­cause of my Govern­ment’s sound man­age­ment of the econ­omy and busi­ness friendly poli­cies. In con­trast to many other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, we re­gard the pri­vate sec­tor as vi­tal part­ners in na­tional de­vel­op­ment. And those pro-busi­ness poli­cies will con­tinue, along with the zero tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion and main­te­nance of law and or­der that has al­ways been a hall­mark of my Govern­ment. Also in stark con­trast to many other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing in our own re­gion

Open for busi­ness

And so, Ladies and Gen­tle­men, I urge you all to view the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that Fiji of­fers with fresh eyes. Whether you are look­ing for a new man­u­fac­tur­ing base, to de­velop a tourism ven­ture or an agri­cul­tural project. To take ad­van­tage of the grow­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in ICT, min­ing, food pro­cess­ing or any num­ber of other ar­eas.

Fiji is open for busi­ness. Fiji is the place to be. With its easy ac­cess to sur­round­ing coun­tries, well de­vel­oped bank­ing and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, state-of-the-art telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and above all, our ed­u­cated work­force. The won­der­ful Fi­jian peo­ple, who are fi­nally work­ing to­gether as one na­tion with their eyes firmly set on ex­cel­lence. On trans­form­ing our de­vel­op­ing coun­try into a mod­ern na­tion State. On achiev­ing the great­ness that we all know awaits us if we re­main united and fo­cused. Thank you all for your at­ten­dance and pro­vid­ing us with the op­por­tu­nity to show­case Fiji. I look for­ward to meet­ing as many of you as pos­si­ble. And now have great plea­sure in declar­ing this Fiji Trade and In­vest­ment Sym­po­sium open.

Thank you.

Voreqe Bain­i­marama Prime Min­is­ter

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