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New Trade Policy A Priority, Says Minister

Minister for Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya says one of his first priorities is to ensure that Fiji's Trade Policy Framework (TPF) is endorsed by Cabinet.

Then it would be launched immediately to get all sectors of the economy working closely together to achieve our common goal of growth and development, he said.

"The TPF is a versatile resource that clearly articulates policy measures and strategies that will work together to drive economic growth over the next decade, from 2015 to 2025," he said.

"The document spells out Government's long-term vision for Fiji's priority sectors and sets targets and timelines. It explains Fiji's stance towards key bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements. And it articulates a detailed development agenda focused on expanding trading opportunities; promoting industrial growth; attracting domestic and foreign investment; increasing exports of goods and services; emphasising the importance of value-addition; and addressing supply-side constraints.

"The policy will guide future agreements between Fiji and her trading partners that will help secure more meaningful access to international markets for our products.

"And of course, the policy recognises the vital role that the private sector plays in driving growth and development, mapping out a path for closer co-operation and collaboration with Government and its statutory bodies.

"Investment is a crucial component for growth. As Minister, my vision is to maintain a sustainable level of investment by proposing initiatives that will increase private sector investment.

"Last year, Fiji recorded the highest level of investment since Independence, at 29 per cent of GDP. This growth in investment was largely fuelled by private sector investment, which represented 45 per cent of total investment in 2013.

"However, the lengthy and cumbersome investment approvals process remains an obstacle for potential investors and I will take immediate steps to address this issue.

"My ministry, with the assistance of Investment Fiji, is undertaking reforms to the approvals process "“ started by my predecessor "“ to establish an online investment registration and approval system. This will create a single application form for potential investors to get approval from all first tier agencies in one simple step.

"In the coming session of Parliament, I will also begin work on FijiFirst's plan to implement the current recommendation for a new fee structure for small to medium enterprises.

"Under this structure, micro-finance entities and small businesses will be exempt from paying fees to meet health, fire and occupational health and safety regulations.

"I will also focus resources on setting up the micro-finance start-up or assistance grants to encourage small-scale economic activity.

"An integral part of my role is to secure new markets for Fijian-made goods and services by continuing to implement and negotiate bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, such the PACP's Economic Partnership Agreement or EPA with the EU, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Trade Agreement and the PACER Plus.

"Although attempts have been made in the past to isolate Fiji from participating in crucial trade negotiations, it's widely recognised that Fiji provides a crucial leadership role that is necessary to strengthen the free flow of goods and services within the region.

"Due to Fiji's economic importance and position in the region, our neighbours have invited us back into the PACER Plus negotiations and I plan to lead these negotiations with Fiji's and the region's best interests at heart.

"I will ensure that we enter the PACER Plus negotiations on our own terms, as equal parties.

"It is crucial that Fiji - and the Pacific - secures tangible, long-term benefits from Australia and New Zealand, which so far have been conspicuously absent from the talks.

"Whilst it is important that we pursue and enhance both new and existing market opportunities abroad, my ministry also plays a key role in strengthening the local business environment.

"To this end, we will continue to help grow the export capabilities of local businesses through the National Export Strategy (NES). Indeed, I fully support the proposal to increase the NES budget to $2-million for the coming year.

(Source: Fiji Sun)