News 16 Jun 2017
The Annual Joint Conference is a critical event on the calendar says Fiji’s Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism and Mineral Resources, Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya.
Guests gathered at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel on Thursday for the New Zealand Fiji Business Council (NZFBC) and its sister organisation, the Suva-based Fiji-NZ Business Council (FNZBC) Joint Conference themed around building “Stronger Relations and Stronger Nations”.
The full-day event, featuring an impressive list of guest speakers including Minister Koya, also marked the 30th anniversary of the NZFBC.
New Zealand has been a part of Fiji’s history for so many years now, and this event has often been a catalyst for whatever is happening at the time, Minister Koya says.
“You have New Zealand business people here who already do business in Fiji and those wanting to do business,” he says.
“As our honourable Prime Minister (Frank Bainimarama) says, we are open for business … this forum is probably at the top of the list in terms of importance, due to Fiji’s relationship with New Zealand, and the huge diaspora based here, who want to return to Fiji to do business.”
Fiji offers many opportunities in agriculture, mining, infrastructure, ICT and manufacturing, which have been discussed and showcased at this forum.
“The forum is a critical part of our programme, and I was happy to come to speak,” the Minister says.
Fiji is currently in an unprecedented seventh year straight of economic growth, and NZ businesses are encouraged to jump on the wave of prosperity, he says.
New Zealand’s largest economic partner in the Pacific has stable, pro-business and pro-growth government policies, enabling a conducive environment to a buoyant economy, while the private sector has lived up to its billing as an engine to growth, the Minister says.
This has led to the modernisation of roads, ports, ICT and linkages to markets, with a focus to capitalise on Fiji being a “hub in the Pacific” for trade and investment.
Plans are in place for the Special Economic Zone, located between Nadi and Lautoka on 60 acres of land, where businesses can set up in a tax-free zone with excellent ICT connectivity, which is also close to ports.
Minister Koya says with so much interest being expressed by the private sector, it is hoped the site will be laid out in the next six months.
Another sign of the value Fiji places on NZ as a partner is the creation of a Trade Commission in Auckland, opening soon, which will be led by Zarak Khan from the Consulate General of Fiji.
Also speaking at the conference was NZ’s Chairperson of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Todd Muller MP, who says he can attest the important linkages NZ has with its Pacific neighbours and these partnerships underpin who we are as a nation.
He acknowledged the important role the two host business councils play in relationship building with Fiji, and that bilateral relations between NZ and Fiji are on a “positive trajectory”.
“New Zealand and Fiji complement each other, but it’s important we don’t take each other for granted,” Mr Muller adds.
President of NZFBC Chandar Sen and FNZBC Craig Strong also reiterated NZ and Fiji relations were at an all-time high, with trade blossoming and ample activity within the service sector.
“New Zealand companies are very active in infrastructure projects in Fiji … we are looking at steps to take this further, and events like today can help us to do that,” Mr Sen says.
The last 30 years has not been without some turbulence for NZ and Fiji, but trade and economic linkages have remained resilient and underpinned the two nation’s relationship over that time.
As economic confidence grows, membership numbers to the councils are increasing and they have a combined number of 200 plus members, from across a diverse range of sectors, of varying sizes.
Following Minister Koya’s address to the delegation, four sessions were held, on Our Business Environment; Opportunities; Growth Drivers; and Innovations, with panellists discussing issues within these areas.
The day concluded with a conference dinner and celebrations for NZFBC 30th anniversary.
(Main picture caption: Minister Koya with Todd Muller MP at the Joint Conference.)