Fiji PM Sitiveni Rabuka says New Zealand has ‘lion’s share’ of trade, talks PACER Plus


Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says New Zealand currently receives the “lion’s share” of trade between the countries – something he wants to dramatically change, while also looking at joining a regionwide free trade agreement.

But it was increasing trade between the countries, particularly on Fiji’s end, that Rabuka spent much of his airtime addressing.

Fiji aims to increase two-way trade between the countries to $2 billion (US$1 billion), up from $1.17b (US$850 million) (based on 2018 figures).

Most of Fiji’s trade with New Zealand is in tourism and services, including seasonal workers. When it comes to goods, there exists a huge trade imbalance between the countries. In 2021, New Zealand exported $381m (US$230 million) in goods to Fiji, while Fiji sent $78m (US$47 million) in goods in return.

The imbalance has been reducing in recent years, however, that has also been impacted by Covid-19.

Rabuka said the pandemic had greatly affected their economy, especially with tourism evaporating, but recent forecasts were positive.

He said they wanted to expand away from tourism and increase exports to New Zealand. A recent trade mission here had identified over $1 billion (US$500 million) in export opportunities, he said.

“You enjoy the lion’s share of the benefit. We came to work harder to boost our own export capacity to New Zealand.”

To boost trade, he said they were seeking New Zealand assistance in improving our “ease of doing business programmes”.

The country was also reviewing the Pacer Plus regional economic framework, which includes Australia and New Zealand but which Fiji had not signed up to, previously citing an imbalance in favour of the larger, more-developed economies.

Rabuka said any decisions on joining that agreement needed to be based on a “thorough understanding of its potential impact on Fiji and its people.

“In that regard, we do undertake an internal review with our stakeholders, including our business community.”

While in Wellington, Rabuka also met with Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, and National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis and foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee.