Speech at Fiji Investment and Trade Business Forum
Deputy Prime Minister Kamikamica; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Tēnā koutou katoa, ni sa bula vinaka saka, namaste.
Deputy Prime Minister, a very warm welcome to Aotearoa. I trust you have been enjoying your time here and thank you for joining us here today.
To all delegates who have travelled to be with us today, I extend to you too my warm thanks.
Aotearoa and Fiji’s relationship
I wish to start today by reflecting on our two countries’ warm partnership.
As we have seen over the past three years, when times are tough, Aotearoa and Fiji have been there for each other.
And we have seen this unique bond play out yet again this year.
On behalf of Aotearoa, I’d like to express our sincere gratitude for Fiji’s assistance as we responded to and recover from the devastating effects of Cyclone Gabrielle. As close Pacific whānau, we know that in times of crisis, our countries will stand shoulder-to-shoulder supporting each other. Deputy Prime Minister, vinaka vakalevu.
Fiji’s support in our time of need is just one example of the foundation of our ever strengthening relationship - one where we actively prioritise and actively foster rich connections and partnerships between our countries.
Our partnership is built on an enduring bedrock of cultural, education, business and sporting links. And on the sporting links, I must give credit to the Fiji Drua for an excellent performance a couple of weeks ago… albeit one that was tough to swallow for this proud Cantabrian.
Deputy Prime Minister, delegates, ladies and gentlemen. No one in this room needs me to tell you that we have faced a difficult three years.
Only a year ago, Aotearoa had just reopened our borders. Fiji had reopened a few months earlier. Our countries were still reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 - above all on the tourism sector.
But after hardship comes opportunity. Fiji has returned to being one of Aotearoa’s top twenty-five trading partners.
Fiji’s goods exports to Aotearoa are thirty percent higher than they were pre-COVID. This is higher than it has ever been.
Yet there is still so much potential to grow our economic relationship even further. A relationship in which our business people can freely trade without barriers. That’s why we are here today.
That’s why the New Zealand Government has been working to make sure our trade agreements open up market opportunities, streamline processes and reduce costs, while ensuring that Māori can participate effectively in key trade policy discussions and negotiations, more than ever before. As a government we are also working to optimise international trade opportunities for Māori exporters and playing a leadership role in expanding Indigenous participation through collaboration arrangements in global trade.
For those officials and Government representatives here today – our job is to open the doors, enable businesses, and then get out of the way to allow commercial links to flourish.
And on the question of enabling? This brings me to PACER Plus.
As you all well know, PACER Plus is the preeminent trade agreement of our region. It was developed in the Pacific, for the Pacific and supports export-led growth and investment. PACER Plus supports economic growth and wealth for people of the Pacific.
As an economic, political and commercial leader in the Pacific, Fijian businesses are well positioned to benefit commercially from PACER Plus should it join the PACER Plus vuvalu (whanau).
PACER Plus has established a common set of trading rules that are based on WTO regulations. There is greater certainty and transparency for businesses importing and exporting across the region including to non-WTO members.
The Agreement supports increased efficiency at borders and expedites release of goods. Simplified customs procedures lower costs. Pacific Island Parties are enjoying zero tariffs for exports into Australia and New Zealand.
PACER Plus is making the Pacific a more attractive investment option. Its transparent and predictable investment rules protects investments while also allowing for each Party to regulate for public policy purposes.
Rules of Origin have been upgraded from those under SPARTECA. Pacific Parties have significant flexibility in sourcing inputs from across global supply chains, further reducing compliance costs.
The Agreement establishes science and risk-based mechanisms to facilitate trade in animals, plants and their products between Parties, while protecting human, animal and plant life and health in the territory of each Party. It further supports dialogue and cooperation between Parties to ensure that countries are well placed to be able to meet SPS requirements.
Fijian businesses are likely to benefit from improved rules around trade in services in the region and will be entitled to more favourable treatment in comparison to third party competitors outside the Agreement. Basic visa access will also be ensured for key employees from member states doing business in the Pacific.
To help Pacific Island countries adjust to PACER Plus, New Zealand and Australia are providing dedicated development assistance through the A$25.5m five-year development and economic cooperation work programme which is administered by the PACER Plus Implementation Unit. New Zealand has also committed to invest at least 20 percent of its total Official Development Assistance (ODA) in aid for trade activities in the Pacific. This will support Pacific countries to build their capacity to trade and attract investment.
In short: we think this is a pretty great opportunity for Fiji.
I’d like to end with a whakatauki, Māori proverb Whiria te tāngata, which means to weave the people together.
This week brings you all together kanohi ki te kanohi. It’s an opportunity that has been sorely lacking for the last three years. But today is just a first step. I have no doubt you will make the most of the opportunity to reconnect, to build new connections and understanding that will help you to grow trade and investment between our markets.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou katoa, vinaka vakalevu.