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Fiji can trade on its own while also working with other Pacific Island countries as a collective trading bloc in the world economy.
This is the sentiment of Minister for Trade Premila Kumar during a high-level panel discussing Pacific Trading Nations on the theme “Surviving to Thriving.”
Kumar explained that Fiji’s development is at a more advanced stage than some smaller island developing states and while there is support for a Pacific trading bloc, there is also room to surge ahead on our own.
“If you look at our trade statistics, it speaks for itself so we cannot be tied down with other regional trade agreements. I believe that the regional region needs to re-look at itself because we are not homogenous, each country is not the same, our needs are different, we are at different stages of development.”
Kumar says there is a need to look beyond the traditional trade agreements of the past with Fiji development focused, going forward.
“That within the Pacific region, Fiji is now ready to enter into a bilateral trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand, that’s my view. The reason has been that we are different from the rest of the Pacific”
The panel discussion was held at the University of the South Pacific as a side event to the Forum Trade Minister’s Meeting in collaboration with the Trade Ministry and USP.
Other panellists included the Minister for Trade from the Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele and Samoa’s Minister for Commerce, Lautafi Fia Selafi Purcell.
Manele stressed that for the Solomon Islands as a country migrating from its Least Developed Country status, there is a need for regional assistance with the development of its laws and regulations in the area of trade.
As a small island developing state, Manele also highlighted the need for infrastructure development as a key feature of any trade both at a domestic and international level.
Samoa’s Minister for Commerce expressed his concern with the World Trade Organisation which he says in a crisis.
Purcell says there is a need to look at how the region fits in when you have the challenges of multilateralism against that of protectionism in addition to working within the realms of the WTO’s stringent regulations.
Meanwhile, the Forum Trade Minister’s meeting in Suva is expected to further thrash out the regional trading issues as well as looking at how collectively it can be resolved in addition to country-level measures.
SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS
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