FIJI'S trade with Pacific island countries has increased from less than 1 per cent of total trade in 2000 to 8 per cent in 2012.
This was revealed by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau at the opening of the Melanesian Spearhead Group investment road show and trade fair at Sheraton Fiji on Denarau yesterday.
"Exports to the Pacific island countries comprise 22 per cent of Fiji's total, representing the largest market for Fiji, even bigger than Australia," he said.
Ratu Epeli also said the potential for future growth in trade among the Pacific island nations was enormous.
"The MSG region constitutes 98.8 per cent of the total landmass in the Pacific region, 30.3 per cent of the Pacific's exclusive economic zone, and 87 per cent of the total Pacific population.
"Last year, the region took the first steps to putting in place a skills movement scheme allowing for the free movement of skilled labour between our countries.
"The remarkable progress of the last couple of years is not only a noteworthy accomplishment in its own right, but also clearly signals the clear direction where the MSG is headed, and the creation of a single market."
The vision of the MSG countries is bold and according to Ratu Epeli, has the potential to unlock new avenues of wealth and prosperity for people to lift our economies.
"This is also to create untold opportunities for trade and investment."
One of the results of the meeting held by MSG member countries was the MSG Trade Agreement.
"This is breaking down trade barriers between our countries, and providing the foundation for growth.
"Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu are already trading duty free on MSG-produced goods under the MSG Trade Agreement.
"The countries of the region are becoming increasingly aware of the MSG's potential to drive growth in the Pacific," he said.
"This represents a combined market of more than 8 million people," Ratu Epeli said.
"The trade and investment seminar will begin with discussions between the relevant agencies and the private sector on various trade and investment opportunities.
"Specifically, the discussions will focus on how investors can take advantage of these opportunities and how governments can help remove impediments.
Delegates from MSG member countries gathered at the week-long workshop to discuss ways in which they could benefit from trade and investment with each other.
(Source: The Fiji Times)