A new platform to bring together entrepreneurs engaged or planning to engage in industrial, commercial and investment activities in Fiji was created last week in Auckland on the hope that it would achieve its objectives continuously.
There is no organisation being formed to elect office-bearers- it would remain an initiative of Indian Newslink and Radio Tarana, two media organisations of New Zealand that understand well Fiji, its government and its people and are committed to promoting them.
This first event, simply called, ‘Fiji Business Dinner,’ held at Pullman Hotel Auckland on Monday, March 21, 2016, we believe, set the tone and mood for a more constructive engagement with Fiji towards which we have always worked.
It evinced the interest of Trade Minister Todd McClay, the Fijian government through its Honorary Consul in Fiji, the New Zealand India Business Council and the Chairmen, Chief Executives and Managing Directors of 50 organisations in New Zealand, some of who have established operations in Fiji.
We have sported the idea of creating such a platform for some time but this has taken long in coming. But we hope that it would become a significant player in New Zealand-Fiji relations, function as a think-tank and involve those who mean well for Fiji.
Governments will always do their best to promote friendly relations between countries and derive benefits of trade, commerce, business and perhaps even aid when the need arises. That is the nature of international politics.
In the case of New Zealand and Fiji, there are even more compelling reasons for more cooperation that confrontation.
Firstly, both countries belong to the same region. We share a common destiny, we are both vulnerable to natural disasters and have to compete with larger economies for global recognition and trade.
Secondly, both countries have permitted cross-border movement of people, although it became one-way for some people for some time following the military coup in Fiji on December 5, 2006. New Zealanders visit Fiji regularly as tourists, contractors and businesses boosting its economy. Thousands of us enjoy the sunny beaches and resorts of Fiji celebrating weddings and honeymoons and marking holidays. Since the first coup that occurred in 1987, thousands of Fijians have relocated themselves in New Zealand and most of them do well as owners, managers and franchisees of small, medium and large enterprises. New Zealand has also been a popular destination for Fijians to study in our educational institutions and later become important players in public and corporate life.
Thirdly, neighbourhood is one of the most coveted aspects of relationships and it is important for governments and countries to cherish it. New Zealand and Fiji need each other to protect each other’s territorial, marine and human safety and security.
As our Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry acknowledges, Fiji has one of the most developed economies in the Pacific. It is based on manufacturing, a thriving tourism industry and natural resources including fish, forest and mineral resources. It is our largest trading partner in the Pacific and one of only two Pacific nations to feature in our top 50 trading partners, along with Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand is a major supplier of services to Fiji and we in turn make up Fiji’s second largest tourist market after Australia. New Zealanders made more than 124,000 visits to Fiji in 2014.
Mr McClay placed the value of bilateral trade at $867 million annually, with exports of $373 million in goods and $148 million in services as at the end of the financial year on March 31, 2015.
“Strong trade in services is a welcome development for both countries. New Zealand companies are active in infrastructure and construction making a significant contribution to Fiji’s development,” he said.
It is gratifying that after years of diplomatic winter (‘a period of dislocation,’ as Mr McClay said), the two countries are working together seeking higher levels of cooperation and coordination.
New Zealand should work through some challenges that have emerged in recent years- obstacles on the path towards reconciliation of past differences. These include Fiji’s insistence on ousting New Zealand from Pacific Islands Forum, the influence of new partners in the Pacific (for instance China, Russia and Korea), the delayed visit of two Prime Ministers to each other’s country and most importantly, regaining mutual confidence.
The people of Fiji and New Zealand should play a significant role in this process.
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