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National trade council formation supported

The private sector has given its support for the formation of a National Trade and Development Council.
It has also given its support for the opening a Trade Commission in Australia and having a roving Trade Commissioner for the Pacific.

Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali, confirmed these as some of the major outcomes of the two-day National Workshop on Fiji’s Trade Policy Framework which ended on Saturday.

The Trade Policy Framework would provide a single reference document identifying the trade capacity, constraints and needs of each sector.
It requires all stakeholders; Government, private and civil; to work together to develop policies that are consistent and work in a co-or0dinated manner to develop industries, investment, exports and trade.

Mr Ali said: “The response from the private sector and the business community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They thanked the Government for firstly involving them to contribute towards this important policy, a level of inclusive partnership and dialogue that was not enjoyed with past governments.

“The Business community was also grateful for the continued certainty and stability the Trade Policy Framework will create, allowing the firms to also plan for growth and further investments.”

The council

Mr Ali said the council would have equal representation from the public, private and civil society organisations.
“This council provides the opportunity for all the agencies to contribute to the policies on trade,” he said.
“The private sector wants this council to be up and running immediately, as this is the first time in Fijian history that the Government has included the relevant players in the policy-making process.”

Losing out Australian trade

Meanwhile, Mr Ali stressed that despite Australia being Fiji’s largest trading partner, there was still potential for Fiji to do more in Australia.
This, he said, was mainly in the manufacturing sector, and can be achieved with the establishment of a Trade Commission in Australia.

“Fiji is losing out as we do not have a Trade Commission located in Australia to promote and further develop trade links,” he said.
As for appointing a roving trade commissioner for the Pacific, Mr Ali said we need to be mindful that exports to Pacific island countries combined was larger than exports to Australia.

“In 2012, export to Pacific island countries was 22 per cent of total exports, this market has grown from less than one per cent in 2000 to eight per cent of Fiji’s total trade,” he said.

Vision of the framework

Mr Ali said the proposed vision for the Trade Policy Framework is for Fiji is to become “an internationally competitive economy” that serves as the “hub of the Pacific”.

“The landscape of the international trading environment has changed rapidly,” he said.
“In order to remain a viable in the international arena, Fiji needs to maintain competitiveness in every aspect of international trade.

“Countries are establishing network of free trade agreements and other preferential trade agreements.
“The World Trade Organisation (WTO) multilateral system that was supposed to create a level playing field has been dormant.

“”This means, that the countries in which Fiji had enjoyed preferential market access will be eroded over time.

“Furthermore, if Fiji is not a party to network of free trade agreements being established its exports will suffer through tariff barriers.”

Mr Ali said therefore, to become “internationally competitive”, it is imperative to maintain and increase our market access.
“Fiji needs to take advantage of its strong manufacturing and tourism base, relatively well developed infrastructure and national airlines,” he said.

(Source: Fiji Sun)