At a Joint Press Conference held today, with the Attorney-General, Minister for Finance and Strategic Planning Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Mr. Shaheen Ali and the TCF Council represented by Mr. Kalpesh Solanki and Mr. Veeramalai Wanarajan, the Attorney-General announced that the new Developing Countries (DC) Preference implemented by the Australian Government will provide more favourable market access, which in turn will provide huge opportunities for the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) products into the Australian Market.
This is not limited to garment manufacturers but allows for favourable access to all Fijian products into the Australian market.
The Attorney-General further stated that the new Scheme provides new rules that will allow for greater flexibility for exporters to source raw materials from more efficient and cost effective sources, outside of Australia and the Pacific Region and now for the first time includes wool.
Therefore, the Fijian TCF manufacturers can purchase the raw materials, including woollen fabrics, from any other developing country and include it in the calculation of local content and then convert these into finished garments for duty free export into Australia.
The Attorney-General added that the DC Preferences will provide Fijian exports more favourable terms of access into the Australian market than the previous South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement?Textile, Clothing and Footwear (SPARTECA-TFC) Scheme, which expired on 31 December 2014.
Hence, Fiji needs to take advantage of the opportunities made available by this new DC Scheme. The industry needs to act now to be able to realise the benefits, in terms, of creation of new employment, and work towards a highly skilled industry.
Mr. Kalpesh Solanki, representing the TCF Council welcomed the new DC Scheme and thanked the Fijian Government, especially the Attorney-General and the Minister for Industry and Trade for the work that was undertaken by them and the support that was provided in lobbying for better and improved market access.
Mr. Solanki also stated that the SPARTECA-TCF Scheme was very complicated and time consuming, therefore, the new Scheme provides more simplified and easier qualification requirements for duty free entry.
The DC Scheme allows for new opportunities for the Fijian industries, especially in the field of garment supply that previously was not available.? New business will be brought into Fiji, hence, we will have a chance of increasing jobs in the coming 12 months.
The Attorney-General stated that over the past 5 years the Fijian Government has assisted the TCF sector through a marketing grant of $100,000 annually that has enabled the industry players to group together to market Fiji. The FijiFirst Government will continue to explore ways to support the further development of the TCF Industry.
The Attorney-General emphasised the importance of the Australian market, which accounts for 85 percent of the total Fijian TCF exports, and there is potential for further expansion of exports and investment in the industry, with the new and more favourable market access conditions in 2015.
He further stated that Australia imports approximately AUD$2billion worth of TCF products, Fiji currently exports AUD$60million, which is less than 1 percent of the total imports, therefore, we need to take advantage of our strategic location and easy accessibility to the Australian market.
The Attorney-General stated that the Fijian TCF industry has re-established itself to manufacture high-end fashion garments that require faster and high quality production, following the loss of preference in the US market in 2005. The Industry has the potential to reach even greater heights provided we embark on upskilling and focusing on quality and niche products.
This means that capacity building and educational opportunities needs to be made available. He stressed that larger economies offer tertiary courses speciailising in the TCF. This is an area, the Attorney General said, could boost Fiji?s TCF growth.
Mr. Koya stated that the Fijian Government will work with the TCF Council and the industry players to look at ways at improving skills and providing training opportunities for the workers, as the new areas will require specialised skills.