The Australia Fiji Business Council’s 37th Annual General Meeting was held in Brisbane on 16 November. Allison Haworth West was re-elected as President.

Allison Haworth West is Executive Chair of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji. She has had a successful career in the tourism industry for many years. She is a patron of the Fiji Fashion Foundation and a published author. Alison shared her views as the President of the Australia Fiji Business Council with the Council’s communications team in an email interview following the recent Annual General Meeting. Excerpts:

How has the past year been, especially since it’s been the first full year after the pandemic?
It has been a very busy and positive year for the AFBC with a variety of successful events and meetings throughout the year. The council has been very proactive in representing the interests of its members and to assist in the facilitation of bilateral trade between Australia and Fiji. With very positive and proactive policy existing both in Australia and Fiji the journey has been a well-supported one, and we are grateful to both governments for their support of business in the region.

What were the highlights for the Council in 2023?
The 27th Australia Fiji Business Forum in Sydney marked a resounding success with a record 175 attendees and fruitful discussions. Notably, Fijian Deputy Prime Ministers, Hon Manoa Kamikamica and Hon Viliame Gavoka, along with Hon Agni Deo Singh, Minister for Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations, graced the event. The Australian government’s representation, led by Hon John Graham MLC, Deputy Leader of the Government in the NSW Legislative Council, included discussions on various ministerial portfolios. Distinguished Fijian and Australian officials and business representatives shared insights during the forum.

And in Brisbane, the Pacific Infrastructure Conference in September focused on ‘Developing Sustainable Resilient Infrastructure the Blue Pacific.’ The Australia Pacific Islands Business Council spearheaded the planning, with AFBC’s executive committee member actively participating. The Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) played a pivotal role as the primary financial sponsor, backed by the Queensland Government and several corporate sponsors. Ministers from thirteen Pacific Islands Countries, including Fiji’s Minister for Public Works, Transport, and Meteorological Services, attended. The conference drew over 500 participants, with notable representation from Chambers of Commerce, including Mr. Harvie Probert from the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.

The Council maintained frequent contact with the Australian government, visiting Canberra to engage with the Pacific office in DFAT, Australian Trade Commission, and diplomatic missions in the Pacific. An executive committee meeting in Canberra included sessions with the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council and the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council. Additional meetings involved the Office of the Pacific, the Pacific Parliamentary Network, Pacific diplomatic representatives, and discussions with Fijian High Commissioner HE Mr David Kolitagane and DFAT.

What’s in the works for 2024?
Looking ahead, the AFBC has a busy year planned, featuring the 28th annual Australia Fiji Business Forum in Fiji, aiming to foster meaningful discussions and outcomes. Additionally, several events in Sydney will offer members and non-members opportunities to connect, access information, and stay updated across various areas.

How do you view the current Australia-Fiji business environment?
It remains highly optimistic, offering numerous opportunities for investors and business professionals. Positive policies from both governments, coupled with the boost to Fiji’s economy from post-COVID tourism growth, reveal a landscape ripe with new possibilities.

How can membership of the Australia Fiji Business Council benefit companies?
The AFBC plays a pivotal role in connecting businesses with Fiji, providing invaluable contacts, extensive experience, and facilitating communication with government officials. It’s a very valuable organisation to those interested in doing business in Fiji.  The contacts and experience within the Council is vast and deep and the opportunity to have contact and communication with government and policy makers is significant for members.

I highly recommend any company that is looking at Fiji as a potential market or location to invest to get involved in the AFBC. The opportunities and rewards are tangible whatever stage of business a company is at. Regardless of a company’s stage, I highly recommend engagement with the AFBC for tangible opportunities and rewards in the dynamic Fijian market.

The Executive Committee of the AFBC is an active group of participants representing a wide range of sectors and industries.  It is an inclusive group of members who are very keen to represent the interests of all members and pursue value, effective policy and a fertile environment for trade between Australia and Fiji.

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