The Fijian Government is convinced there are many other exciting opportunities that remain untapped within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) region.
This follows the successful Trade and Investment Mission to Papua New Guinea in April which was led by the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.
The Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, made these comments while opening the inaugural MSG Trade Ministers meeting in Nadi yesterday.
Besides Fiji, the one-day meeting at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island was attended by the Trade Ministers from Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji.
The meeting comes as the MSG leaders seek a more trade and economically-integrated region.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “We share a bold vision for a truly integrated Pacific, beginning with a truly integrated MSG.
“The vision is for a ‘common economic union’ and a ‘single common market’ with the free movement of goods, services, labour and capital. If we are willing to work together, this is the future.
“In Fiji, we believe that trade and economic co-operation form the foundation for prosperity and growth in the region.”
Intra-MSG trade progress
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum noted that historically, intra-MSG trade had been low.
“However, we have seen remarkable signs of progress over the last few years,” he said.
“It has been noted that between the periods 2005 to 2009, intra-MSG trade has increased substantially – with exports amongst the MSG rising by more than 300 per cent.
“Fiji’s total trade with the Pacific islands countries has increased from less than one per cent in 2000 to 4.5 per cent in 2010.
More than 40 per cent of this trade is now with the MSG countries. In 2012, Fiji-PNG trade alone was more than $23 million.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is confident further boost in intra-MSG trade is expected in 2013 and 2014.
This, he said, comes with the removal of tariff barriers by Papua New Guinea last year and all of Vanuatu’s tariffs being reduced to zero this year.
“All told, we project significant growth in intra-MSG trade in 2013 and 2014,” he said.
Review of trade agreement
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said one of the main tasks of this new forum was to review the MSG Trade Agreement.
“We must ensure that the new trade agreement builds on our achievements, and that is does not nullify the substantial progress that we have made as a sub-regional group,” he said.
Labour and mobility
MSG secretariat director Governance and Sustainable Development, Barbara Age, stressed the Group leaders endorsed greater economic integration between the countries.
She said this involved a long term a vision of closer economic relations including the possible creation of a common market for services and labour mobility.
Ms Age said the kava exports into Europe and Australia continues to feature in their trade meetings. Kava was banned for the European market since 2002.
(Source: Fiji Sun)