Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of – United States Embassy;
President of the Fiji-USA Business Council;
Executive Board and Financial Members of the Fiji – United States of America (USA) Business Council;

Ladies and Gentleman.

Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

I’m delighted to be part of this event, to celebrate the extraordinary relationship between Fiji and the United States (U.S).

I would like to congratulate the Board Members, the Council President and his team for another successful year. Your invaluable contribution over the past year in promoting broader and deeper Fiji-U.S. relations, is acknowledged.

The Fijian Government appreciates the enormous potential in the bilateral relationship. This is clearly evident from our diplomatic and commercial presence in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, respectively.

I am happy to announce that the new Trade Commissioner for North Americas has been appointed and he is Mr Praneet Singh. Mr Singh comes with vast experience in the private sector, having been a Senior Accountant at ANZ Bank in New Zealand. He will take up office in the next few months, so I urge you all to extend to him the goodwill and support we share.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will not speak for long, as I would like tonight to be a two-way exchange. But first, let me give you an idea of where Fiji stands today, and where our nation is headed.

Fiji today is more robust, prosperous, and innovative. We are the hub of the Pacific, the hub of trade, tourism, transport, communication, business and development. Just last week, Fiji hosted the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Denarau.

I can proudly say we were the first-ever Pacific island nation to ever host the ADB’s Annual Meeting, which was attended by almost 3,000 delegates.

As our Hon. Prime Minister highlighted, the event was the single largest international gathering to ever take place on Fijian shores.

As our tourism sector continues to grow and expand into new areas, niche sectors like sports tourism, eco-tourism and “MICE” (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), provide investment opportunities.

In 2018 alone, a total of 870,309 visitors visited Fiji, out of which 86,075 were U.S. visitors, our third largest source market.

We have done exceptionally well over the past decade. The Fijian economy is now poised to grow for the tenth consecutive year, the longest period of sustained economic growth ever recorded in our history. And the projection for 2020 shows that, we will maintain the upward trajectory.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have welcomed new businesses to Fiji year after year, which means that investor confidence remains high. The investment figures have been very positive, with over 25% contribution to the GDP. The total value of U.S investment projects implemented from 2012 until 2018 was $366.8 million, which created a total of 2,833 jobs.

More and more Fijians are also starting up businesses of their own. And this big boost in business activity in Fiji, has dropped our unemployment to the lowest rate recorded in 20 years.

Fiji has the best investment incentives in the region and compares competitively at the global level. We have the lowest corporate taxes, streamlined income tax and the ability to get a maximum of 20-year tax free status (depending on investment amount). Above all, Fiji has a highly talented English-speaking workforce, which is vital in any ideal working environment.

In manufacturing as well, there remains a lot of untapped potential. And to encourage greater growth, we are offering tax exemptions and deductions across various industries, particularly in commercial agriculture and agro-processing.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To create the necessary enablers for greater investment flows, we are reviewing current investment laws to better respond to the needs of a modern investment climate. In this regard, the Fijian Government has engaged the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank Group to undertake the review of the investment policy law. The objective is to have our investment laws and regulations up to the international standards, as well as, adoptive to the global best practices.

In addition to this, the Ministry has undertaken the reforms of doing business processes. We are working in consultation with the Singaporean Government to review, redesign and harmonise building permits process and starting a business process. By the end of June 2019, an online information portal will be launched. This will provide all information in relation to building permits and starting up a business.

Fiji is also upgrading its national infrastructure to a new standard of climate resilience. New roads, airports, bridges and jetties are being developed and we are massively expanding our ports and making them more efficient.

A number of reforms at the border are also being implemented to enable easier cross-border trade for businesses. Fiji is currently implementing the World Trade Organisations Trade Facilitation Agreement, which eliminates delays for exporting and importing goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to also highlight some trade figures, which will help further understand the importance of the U.S market for us Fijians. U.S has been amongst the top five principal trading partners and has been Fiji’s number one export destination for the past five years.

Two-way trade between the two countries was worth $510.4 million in 2018. Fijian products such as bottled water, tuna, cane sugar, taro, ginger and pre-packed food items has already entered the U.S market, however, tremendous amount of potential exists to further expand the products exported.

A major portion of Fiji’s trade with the U.S is administered under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme. Products that are eligible for duty-free treatment under the scheme include manufactured items, chemicals, minerals and building stone, jewellery and certain agricultural and fisheries products.

A major success story is the export of Fijian Kava to the U.S market, which has increased by over 400% since 2015. The U.S is also the largest market for Fijian Kava exports.

Whilst exports of kava and bottled water have done well, we should not rest on our laurels, there are many other Fijian Made and Fijian Grown products that can be presented to the U.S. consumer, this includes our fashion and cosmetic items, pearls, agri-products targeting the Fijian diaspora and the organic market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Trade, investment and economic cooperation form one of the most important facets of modern Fiji-U.S. relations. As we seek to elevate our bilateral relationship, it is our business communities that possess the maximum potential to transform and energize these ties.

With those words, I thank you all for attending this event and for your interest in working with Fiji and Fijians. Have an enjoyable evening.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.

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