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Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his Fijian counterpart Voreqe Bainimarama have had a rocky relationship over the years.
But the opening of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship began last year with Tuilaepa’s state visit to Fiji, and with the Fiji Government’s recent appointment of an ambassador to Samoa.
Fiji’s new roving Ambassador to Samoa, Ratu Seremaia Tuinausori Cavuilati presented his credentials to the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Sualauvi Vaaletoa II.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ratu Seremaia said presenting his credentials follows on from the overall desire between the two leaders to come closer to one another at a political level.
“It was a historic visit by Prime Minister Tuilaepa as far as the relationship between Samoa and Fiji is concerned. So Prime Minister Bainimarama welcomed Tuilaepa, although his initial visit was for the celebration of the University of the South Pacific’s 50 years celebration,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“The Fiji Government took that opportunity to host him in a state visit. It brings hope, and Fiji has encouraged me to present my credentials here.”
Ratu Seremaia said his work is to be the bridge between the two countries in terms of assistance that they can give each other, whether it’s at the political, technical or official level.
“Trade is a very important aspect of our relationship. At the moment, Fiji would like to explore that opportunity. We know that Samoa is closely linked to New Zealand and there are imports from there, so we would like to explore opportunities with our private sectors.
“We will be meeting with the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and have a general discussion on areas in which Fiji can assist in trade. We don’t have a bilateral trade agreement at the moment, so that is something we need to explore.”
He said Fiji is able to assist through capacity building in health, education, and other sectors and Fiji is open to share its knowledge to all Samoans.
“Fiji has been blessed with assistance from international communities and organisations, and of course our development partners, area of capacity building in education, health and other sectors,” he said.
“We have been producing people to contribute to Fiji’s development, and we also have the capacity to help out. For example, we now have a Fiji Volunteer Scheme, where our retired teachers are being posted to island countries like Tuvalu, Nauru, Republic of Marshall Islands, and also on health, nurses in particular. Of course, we have the University of the South Pacific, Fiji National University and University of Fiji.
“We also open our doors to study visits and also special training; we have the FNU for marine engineering, for special technical and vocational skills which are currently being utilised by Island countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu and also in collaboration with the police agencies boarder control.”
Ratu Seremaia said his role is to really understand Samoa better before taking any further step to explore whether it’s in trade, tourism, capacity building.
“Fiji is trading with Melanesian Group of companies, but we need to look this way as well. At the moment our private sector is taking the initiative as well, exploring where our trade agreements can help in the areas that haven’t been covered or explored.”
He added his work is to also look at Fijians living abroad, and ensure that they are working legally in the country they are in.
“We understand that here in Samoa there is quite a sizeable number working in the hospitality industry, domestic workers as well, so we would like to get to them, and their leadership, because we know they have associations so we can relate to them first of all to abide by the laws of Samoa, as well as to look at their well-being.”
Ratu Seremaia will be based in Suva, and hopes to visit twice a year, depending on the availability of resources.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
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