Hon. Senator Zed Sesalja, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific;

H.E. John Feakes, Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji;

Mr Warwick Pleass, President of Fiji-Australia Business Council;

Ms Allison Haworth-West, President of Australia-Fiji Business Council;

Mr Saud Minam, Vice-President of Fiji-Australia Business Council;

Members of the Fiji-Australia and Australia-Fiji Business Councils;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Bula Vinaka and a very good evening to you all – it is a pleasure to speak to you at this evening’s meeting.

Fiji and Australia share a strong and enduring relationship, demonstrated by the signing of the ‘Vuvale Partnership’ in 2019. ‘Vuvale’ of course means family – and it reflects the depth, breadth and warmth of our relationship and paves the way for deeper business, trade and economic links.

Our close people-to-people contacts have resulted in extensive business ties between Australia and Fiji – with over 3,000 Aussie companies doing business in Fiji and 61,000 Fijians now living and working in Australia.
Fiji is also one of the top tourism destinations for Australians, with over 367,000 Australians visiting Fiji back in 2019 – and we look forward to welcoming Aussies back to our shores in December.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Australia remains one of Fiji’s largest trade and investment partners. Total Australian investment in Fiji is valued at approximately $2.07 billion in 2019, focusing on tourism, the financial sector and manufacturing. Two-way goods and services trade has also been steadily increasing year-on-year, totaling $2.47 billion in 2019.

Australia is Fiji’s second largest export destination, accounting for 12.9% of all Fijian exports and valued at over $280 million. Primary exports include gold and garments, but we have also seen an increased demand for Fijian agricultural and cosmetic products, with total exports increasing year-on-year.

You can now see more Fijian products coming into the mainstream retail market in Australia. If you visit Amazon Australia you will also see a range of beauty and skin care products from brands such Loloma, Pure Fiji, Naturally Fiji and Nama Fiji. And if you go to your local Cole’s supermarket or Chemist Warehouse you will now see Fiji Kava’s range of sleep, mind and body supplements.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The export of kava remains a substantial earner for Fiji, raking in around $43.6 million in 2020. Kava has diversified into products such as flavoured kava beverage, ready to drink mix, capsules, micronized kava and also kava fit for pharmaceutical and complementary medicine.

During the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting this year, Australia has confirmed the launch of the commercial kava pilot programme by the end of 2021. This will provide an important boost to the Fijian Kava industry and help meet the growing demand for kava, especially by the Fijian diaspora.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Growing international demand for near-shore outsourcing services presents opportunities in Fiji as the regional outsourcing hub. Fiji’s renowned culture of hospitality and resourcefulness, combined with its strategic location as the Hub and world class internet connectivity, means that it is well positioned to deliver exceptional value for clients.
Our best resource is our dynamic human capital. Fiji has a young, multicultural, vibrant and well-educated workforce – with 50% of our population under the age of 27 and a literacy rate of 96%.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although a sharp decline in economic activities due to COVID-19 pandemic, this presented us with opportunities to rethink and re-align strategies.

The recent 2021/22 budget provides numerous regulatory changes, low and competitive tax regime, and introduction of attractive tax incentive packages across a number of sectors, with a focus on economic diversification, making Fiji a more viable environment for doing business.

There are various duty exemptions and tax holidays available for investments in:

● agro-processing,
● recycling sector,
● manufacturing of pharmaceutical products,
● new projects relating to construction of new hotels and integrated tourism development sites, and,
● infrastructure that supports the BPO sector, such as contact and data centres.

There are also major incentives for investment in ICT enabling infrastructure and services, such as ICT cable landing and associated infrastructure, accredited training institutions and ICT start-ups and a 200% tax deduction on the development or upgrade of online shopping websites with integrated payment platforms.

Fiji has reduced duty on around 2,000 customs tariff-line items unilaterally, with duty exemptions for investment in green energy and technology. There will be more incentives and concessions for environmental goods and services following the conclusion of negotiations on the Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

An effective health response has enabled us secure a sustainable foundation for our economic recovery. Thanks to our key partners like Australia – over 96% of our target population have had their first dose to date and we have achieved our target of 80% of fully vaccinated adults in Fiji on 9 October 2021 — 3 weeks ahead of schedule.

The pace and penetration of the vaccine rollout has presented the best route towards fewer restrictions, recommencement of business operation with COVID-Safe protocols, and the return of international tourists.
In addition to vaccination, a nationwide adherence to COVID-Safe Protocols by Fijians has ensured that Fiji was able to successfully contain the spread of the virus. Hence, this success has led Fiji to reopen its international borders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 10 October 2021, the Hon Prime Minister announced the list of over 20 Travel Partner countries, which includes our key markets of Australia and New Zealand. As of 1 December 2021, the Fijian borders will reopen to these Travel

Partner countries for “quarantine-free” travel.

In order for any traveller to qualify for “quarantine-free” travel, they must be fully vaccinated, must have stayed in one of the Travel Partner countries for at least 10 days.
For Australian planning to visit Fiji, we encourage you to do so. You will no longer be confined to your hotel room. You will be able to move around all Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) certified or approved properties, excursions, and tours.

And this is what you need to do:

● Pre-book accommodation at a CFC certified hotel or resort.
● Provide a negative RT-PCR COVID test result (3 days prior to departure).
● Provide proof of being fully vaccinated.
● Must download careFiji app and keep device bluetooth activated at all times.
● Take a Rapid Diagnostic Test at least after 48 hours of being in Fiji.
● Follow all the COVID safe protocols and procedures.

Preparations are well underway for Fiji’s borders to reopen and for international travel to resume with Fiji Airways, Qantas and Virgin all announcing direct flights from Australia to Fiji.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, there has never been a more opportune time to take advantage of the numerous business opportunities in Fiji.

Fiji sits in the heart of the Pacific, with strong shipping and air connectivity coupled with modern ICT infrastructure, makes Fiji a logical choice for doing business.

We have set the stage. We are providing the best incentives and business environment. What we need is this “Vuvale” partnership to come into action. We need Australian businesses and investors to see Fiji as their first choice for doing business. And we stand ready to facilitate and ensure that you will have a smooth transition into Fiji commerce.

With these few words I would like to thank you for the opportunity and look forward to discussing enhanced levels of cooperation with you all.

Vinaka Vakalevu and thank you.

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