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Fiji’s 10 years of unprecedented economic growth has undoubtedly been attributed to the sound leadership of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.
This was highlighted byJonathan Pryke, the Director for Pacific Islands Programme at the Lowy Institute during the 25th Australia-Fiji Business Council forum official dinner.
Pryke said it’s no secret that the formal relationship between the two countries have been through a tough time but the Bainimarama-led Government has turned a new page which has seen an enhanced Fiji-Australia bilateral relationship, among other important achievements.
With the signing of the Vuvale Partnership, he said the Prime Minister’s prospects for a better Fiji have been bright.
“I think it’s beyond time to elevate the relationship even further with Australia and Fiji negotiating on a comprehensive bilateral trade and investment agreement,” Pryke said.
“A comprehensive trade and investment agreement would help the relationship in a number of ways. It would give regulatory certainty to investors in both directions, reduce barriers of entry for new traders and investors and minimise risk by setting out mutually agreed upon legal and regulatory frameworks.
“Such an agreement would be a perfect starting point for a broader conversation about how to deepen and thicken the bilateral economic relationship, a conversation this business council has already been having for some time.”
On the people-to-people and institutional links under the Vuvale Partnership, Pryke said this is critically important as the two pillars go hand in hand.
“Sports is one area in which the people-to-people and institutional links can naturally be strengthened. Also, twinning relationship with the Australian state education and health agencies and Fijian equivalents is a concept that can be further explored,” he said.
“The Reserve Banks of Australia and Fiji should partner on cadetship exchanges. The RBA could even consider taking on some FBF graduates for a rotation or two. We should have more parliamentary exchanges and more special visitor programmes in both directions.
“The institutional and people-to-people links under the partnership should also enhance security cooperation and more should be done to solidify the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the RFMF. Apart from the assistance rendered by Australia on the Blackrock facility in Nadi and the Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Programme, joint exercises and shared humanitarian deployments should always be an activity between the two forces.”
Pryke added Australia is trying to increase opportunities for Fijians from all walks of life to work in the country through its temporary Seasonal Worker and Pacific Labour Schemes, both important initiatives that should be fully supported.
“It’s time to go beyond these schemes. We could strengthen our institutional ties between immigration and customs to harmonise our immigration systems to make things work more smoothly.
“This kind of relationship, one of intimacy and independence, is what I imagine for Australia and Fiji in 25 years. I thank Prime Minister Bainimarama and Prime Minister Morrison for signing the partnership, a one-page framework laying out the key pillars that this new relationship will be built on,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Australia-Fiji Business Council stands as evidence of the intimate economic relationship between the two countries.
This is a relationship whose strength is owed in no small way to the business communities of Fiji and Australia’s commitment to strengthening such bond every year.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made these remarks while speaking at the 25th Australia-Fiji Business Council Forum in Brisbane Thursday.
“Over the years, this forum has evolved to become a hallmark event for Australian business people who are looking to Fiji for investment and business opportunities,” he said.
“With over 120 companies as members, this forum has become the perfect space for any business engaged in bilateral trade or looking to engage in the future.
“As we come together for this year’s event, joined by the highest levels of government from both Fiji and Australia, it’s clear now more than ever that this forum is a dynamic platform for exchanging ideas, engaging in networking and exploring business opportunities between our two countries,” said Bainimarama.
SOURCE: FIJI GOVT/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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