Fiji’s growing position as an economic hub in the region topped talks held this evening in Tokyo between the Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama and the Japanese Prime Minister Hon. Shinzo Abe.
Prime Minister Bainimarama is in Tokyo to attend the 7th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 7) and held bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart at the margins of the meet. The Prime Minister also welcomed the opportunity to attend this year’s PALM 7 meeting despite his exclusion from previous years’ meetings. He added that his participation at this year’s PALM 7 meeting demonstrates the Fijian Government’s commitment to develop bilateral ties between the two nations.
“For Fiji’s part, I would ask that Japan deal with Fiji in a more open and direct manner – and with a greater appreciation of our own position – rather than to take advice from third parties about the relationship. We seek the closest possible ties with Japan on a one to one basis and are very pleased by the renewed warmth that now characterises our relationship”, the Fijian Prime Minister said.
During their talks, the Prime Minister pointed out the opportunities that exist in Fiji that can stimulate trade between the two countries.
“We would like Japan – as a longstanding friend – to be at the forefront of partnering with us to take Fiji forward. And to ride the wave of optimism that has accompanied our new democracy”, the Prime Minister said as he alluded to Fiji’s electoral and parliamentary developments.
“Tremendous opportunities are now presenting themselves. We have enjoyed economic growth of four per cent or more for the past three years. And we are currently witnessing high levels of both foreign and local investment, as well as an expanding engagement and reengagement by and with our development partners and major financial institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.”
The meeting was an opportunity for Prime Minister Bainimarama to raise bilateral issues for consideration. This included Market Access for Fijian products into the Japanese market, joint promotion for business or investment supporting Japanese Small to Medium Enterprises in Fiji, reciprocal visa exemption arrangements, parliamentary exchange and support, possible investment in the public utilities sector in Fiji and natural disaster resilience support. He also highlighted to Prime Minister Abe that the Fijian Government is keen to see the commencement of the Nadi River Realignment Project.
“The town of Nadi and the surrounding area forms one of the most important economic contributors to the Fijian economy and a source of livelihood for numerous Fijians. It is a centre for tourism, the largest contributor to our GDP. Yet it is constantly at the mercy of floodwaters from the river that flows through the town. And in two recent incidents, Nadi was submerged and the entire community devastated.”
The meeting was an opportunity for Prime Minister Bainimarama to reaffirm the Fijian Government’s commitment to strengthen Fiji’s relations with Japan. In this respect, he extended an invitation to Prime Minister Abe to lead a high-level visit to Fiji.
“Honorable Prime Minister, I close by repeating my invitation for you to visit Fiji sometime in 2015. I do so in the firm belief that this would be a tangible expression to our own people and the world that we have embarked on a new era of friendship and cooperation. I also have a strong desire to reciprocate the hospitality and generosity shown to me on this visit.”