Posts tagged ISO

PM Bainimarama’s Speech at the Opening of Heads of Mission Consultations

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

This year’s annual examination of Fiji’s diplomatic strategies may be the most important since we gained independence. We are in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of our international relations.

It is absolutely essential to ensure that we are meeting our international commitments, delivering tangible results to the Fijian people, and best representing Fiji’s interests amongst the community of nations.

After gaining Independence in 1970, Fiji became the 127th member of the United Nations. Our diplomatic presence overseas was the ‘bare minimum’.

Just five years ago, Fiji still only had eleven Missions abroad. Today, there are 17. This number will continue to grow as we strengthen and develop new relationships with non-traditional partners and friends.

The significant expansion of Fijian diplomacy in the past five years stands testament to our growing influence and diverse interests in a dynamic and evolving global landscape.

Fiji is becoming a cohesive, unified force that is truly independent. We are taking charge of our own destiny and carving out our own niche in the world. We don’t see ourselves as beholden to anyone.

We will act in our own interests, not the interests of those who attempt to impose their will on us. The days of us being dictated to by outsiders are over.

In 2013, I can proudly say that Fiji has demonstrated its leadership credentials – in our region and to the world. We have shown that the strength of our leadership is in our ability to form solidarity and unity amongst fellow nations. As a result, our international standing has never been higher.

Fiji has assumed the chairmanship of the largest negotiating bloc at the United Nations, the G77 plus China, and Fiji has actively advanced the causes of the developing world.

Fiji has been elected the chair of the International Sugar Council, the peak body of the International Sugar Organisation, which consists of 86 countries representing 97 per cent of the world’s sugar production.

And Fiji has emerged as one of the world’s most dynamic countries in delivering ICT services and infrastructure to our people, presenting our reforms in a number of international conferences, including a High Level Forum in Hong Kong last week.

Within the region, we are restructuring the landscape of the Pacific, together with our neighbours, to better suit the needs, demands and aspirations of our peoples.

We recently handed over the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, having—during our leadership— achieved significant strides toward achieving a bold vision: a common economic union and single market. This includes convening the first-ever meeting of MSG Trade Ministers in May this year.

Fiji has also assumed a leadership role within the Pacific ACP –  after our full reinstatement last year – and we are working with our fellow Pacific nations to negotiate a favourable and appropriate Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union. Last December, Fiji chaired the EU-ACP Trade Negotiations in Geneva, and in May we hosted a meeting of PACP Trade Ministers.

But perhaps the most exciting honour for Fiji will come at the beginning of August when we host the very first meeting of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. Twenty-three Pacific countries will participate, as well as 10 foreign countries with observer status.

The Forum marks a significant new beginning in the Pacific. It is the first of its kind. It will bring together not only Leaders of Government, but also representatives from civil society and the business sector. It will allow participants to discuss and debate Pacific issues, values and interests without the influence and interference by our larger, traditional partners.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These exciting developments in Fiji’s international position are matched by developments underway at home: economic, social, environmental and political.

This is a story we need to be telling the world. We are finalising a new Constitution that specifically includes – for the first time – socio-economic rights for all Fijians.

This includes the right to economic participation, the right to work and the right to a just minimum wage, as well as to such things as transportation and adequate food and water.

Our new Constitution will introduce long overdue democratic principles– for the first time – an electoral system that removes the legal enforcement of ethnic voting, enshrines one person, one vote, one value and helps voters focus on the merits of the policies the respective political parties are offering.

It will introduce an entirely new regime of accountability and transparency.

We’ve also embarked on a massive drive of voter registration, using biometric technology that will help us eliminate vote fraud and identity theft.  So far, 530,000 Fijians – representing more than 80% of eligible voters – have registered to vote.  And we’re not done; we plan to keep registering voters until the election writs are issued. This will also mean that we will be registering Fijians living offshore and we will require assistance from your Missions.

So now, I would like to pose a question to every one of you: how are your Missions contributing to the greater movement of reform, development and progress in Fiji now?

What are the tangible results you are delivering to the Fijian people?

Is there more you could be doing?

Are there new markets to be developed? Opportunities for new imports, or new exports?

Are you doing enough to seek out investment that will grow our economy?

What are ways to better advance our nation’s interests abroad?

Answering questions like these is what this week’s consultations are all about. More importantly, answering these questions is our responsibility to the Fijian people.

You are on the front line in your posts overseas. In addition to your traditional diplomatic roles, it is up to each of you to develop new markets for Fijian products, to attract new investment to our shores, and to sell “Brand Fiji” to the world.

You must constantly be focused on creating opportunities for Fiji and Fijians.

We now have Fiji Airways, Film Fiji, Tourism Fiji and Investment Fiji. We are carving out our own space in highly competitive international markets.

We are marketing high-quality, niche products that capitalise on our unique and pristine environment and people.

It is critical that you establish direct links with the respective agencies.

Last night you met with some of the Fijian businesses interests. You must be able to directly and efficiently co-ordinate with Fijian businesses and the relevant approval agencies. Let’s cut down on the red tape, unclog the investment pipeline and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.

We must focus on creating new opportunities for Fiji and all Fijians. Whether it is furthering our national interests at international forums or through international law and committees; accessing education and training opportunities for our people; attracting quality foreign investment; promoting trade; or creating trading and investment opportunities for Fijian products and companies – we cannot relent on our objectives.

My Government will ensure that you are empowered, ably supported, and provided with the right tools and tradecraft to lead the implementation of Fiji’s policies.

Over the next few days, I urge you to use this forum to consolidate your strengths, and identify the gaps in your respective Missions and here in the capital.

Ambassadors and High Commissioners, with those words, I now officially declare the 2013 Heads of Missions Consultations open.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

 

PM Bainimarama Closing Statement at the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council

As we come to the end of the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council, I would like to thank you all most sincerely for your active engagement during the three days of our deliberations.  On behalf of the Fijian people and Government, I express our appreciation to all members of the Organisation for making excellent contributions in today’s Council session as well as in the Workshop and committee meetings.

We have had an in-depth exchange on wide ranging topics on world sugar matters and related issues, including bio-fuels, ethanol and climate change.

Although circumstances differ from country to country, we are all faced with many of the same issues. We have examined these key issues during our discussions, and received the findings of expert studies. What we take away from this meeting will help guide us as we consider the options for improving our respective industries.

I would like to thank Dr. Peter Baron, the Executive Director, and his team for the excellent preparations for this meeting.  My thanks also go to all of the staff of the Fijian Government and sugar industry stakeholders who have contributed to the smooth functioning of this meeting.

This has been a very productive three days.

I wish you all a relaxing enjoyable excursion to the Plantation Island and a safe return trip home. I look forward to seeing you all in London in November.

Vinaka Vakalevu and thank you.

Fijian Prime Minister and ISO Chair Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama Closes the 43rd Council Session

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama Opens 43rd Council Session of the ISO

INTERNATIONAL SUGAR MEET RECEIVES BOOST- ANZ

The International Sugar Organisation Conference today received a financial boost of $20,000 from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) Fiji for the 43rd ISO Council Session.

Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Pio Tikoduadua while accepting the cheque from ANZ CEO Fiji and the Pacific, Vishnu Mohan said that government was grateful to the bank for its assistance in the sugar industry which is one of the critical areas of national development.

“The government and the nation is appreciative of the ANZ’s bank efforts in assisting us with growing the sugar industry,” Tikoduadua said.

Mr Mohan said that the ANZ was priviledged and honoured for the opportunity to assist government with the prestigious ISO meeting which will be opened tomorrow by the Chairman of the International Sugar Council, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Highlighting other assistance rendered to the sugar industry, Mr Mohan added that the ANZ w

ill continue to support the sugar industry as agriculture was one of its key focus areas of activity.

“We will continue to help the industry move forward,” Mohan said.

Tomorrow’s opening starts the official beginning of the week-long meeting which will see more than 100 delegates from around the world look at ways of promoting sugar exports and sugar prices especially for developing states.

s.ANZ CEO Fiji and the Pacific, Vishnu Mohan hands over the $20,000 cheque for the ISO meeting to PSPMO, Pio Tikoduadua

PM Bainimarama – Speech at the Opening of the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council

On behalf of my Government and the Fijian people, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to Fiji for the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council.

This is a proud moment for our country. Fiji is deeply honoured to host such a wide range of experts, industry leaders and government officials from around the world to discuss the future of the sugar cane industry.

When I accepted the chairmanship of the ISC in London last year, I made a pledge that Fiji would do everything possible to advance the cause of this global industry and the millions of ordinary people the world over who depend on it for their livelihoods.

They look to us to keep the industry sustainable and prosperous at a time when instability and uncertainty are commonplace. World sugar prices remain volatile, and shifts in production in a number of large sugar-producing nations have drastically altered the marketplace.

Currently, global production is higher than it has been for a long time, up 3.2% from last season, outstripping demand. This means that the price of sugar is down, and global stocks are forecast to increase as excess sugar is held over to next year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although circumstances differ from country to country, we are faced with many of the same issues, primarily reliable access to markets – which is necessary to instil a degree of certainty into the industry that will help attract investment and drive reforms.

In the case of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries represented here, our highest priority relates to our relationship with the European Union (EU).

As almost all of the ACP’s sugar exports are to the EU, this is an issue of extreme urgency.

Of great importance for all ACP sugar-exporting countries is the EU’s review of its Common Agricultural Policy, which includes the Common Market Organisation for Sugar.

The ACP sugar-exporting countries, including Fiji, are seeking a five-year extension of the EU-ACP quota system from 2015 to 2020. These additional five years will give ACP countries added security as they continue to restructure, modernise and diversify their sugar cane industries to meet today’s challenges and demands.

For the Pacific ACP region, the issue of highest priority is the negotiation of a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, which in terms of sugar, would allow for continued duty-free access to their marketplace.

The alternative is the EU’s interim EPA, which we regard as highly problematic. The EU has announced that Pacific countries that do not ratify this interim EPA by 2014 will lose duty-free access, including for sugar. Unfortunately, there are a number of contentious issues contained in the interim EPA that are unacceptable to us.

The interim EPA – as its name suggests – was never intended to be a permanent solution. A comprehensive EPA is the goal, and the EU should not move the goalpost at this late a stage.

An EPA that addresses the contentious issues and aspires to the region’s development goals is the only answer.

We call on the EU to enter these negotiations with the Pacific with a sense of urgency that matches our own.

The Council will be updated on all of the latest developments during our deliberations this week.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For many of the countries represented here, sugar cane is not just some incidental crop that can be easily replaced. It is a primary agricultural export, at the very core of our economies and the lifeblood of huge segments of our populations.

In some ACP countries, sugar exports account for more than one quarter of GDP and 85 per cent of total agricultural exports.

In Fiji, our economy has been built on the sugar cane industry. Before the growth of tourism and other sectors, the sugar cane industry was almost the sole contributor to the prosperity of our country for close to 100 years.

Even though tourism has now become the leading foreign exchange earner, sugar remains a major economic driver, providing livelihoods – either directly or indirectly – for around 200,000 Fijians – more than 20% of our population.

Therefore, my Government’s commitment to this industry is absolute and unwavering – to make sugar viable and prosperous again – to reverse the decline in production experienced in Fiji over the last couple of decades.

One of the truest indicators of the health of the industry is the faith ordinary sugar cane farmers have that it can provide them and their families with a decent living. When farmers leave the sugar fields, it means that faith has been broken. It means they no longer believe that the sugar cane industry that once supported their families can continue to do so.

This was an all too common state of affairs six years ago when my Government took office. From day one, it was clear that our most important task would be to restore faith in the industry. To let all stakeholders know that sugar in Fiji can once again prosper. And it will.

For Fijians, uncertainty was caused by a number of factors.

Cane quality, cane transport, general infrastructure, supply to our mills and the performance of those mills are all issues.

We also face an issue that is uniquely challenging in Fiji – the renewal of long-term land leases for sugar cane farming. These lease renewals – which were only given for thirty years – limited the ability for farmers to properly commercialise these holdings. Not only that, land tenure was also highly politicised, fuelling insecurity and uncertainty for both landlords and farmers.

At the top levels, for too long the industry was characterised by neglect, mismanagement, lack of financial and corporate discipline and corruption. We also had too many politicians interfering in the industry, using it as a means for personal political advantage – a way to win easy votes. The problem was that it was all talk and no action.

In fact, it was a betrayal of ordinary farmers, who were given false promises rather than constructive solutions and meaningful reforms. Is it really any wonder that many of them lost faith in the industry?

Over the past few years, my Government has started to right these wrongs with a comprehensive series of reforms.

We are sparing no effort to revitalise Fiji’s sugar industry and, recently, I’m happy to say that we’ve begun to see encouraging signs that those reforms are working.

Land that had fallen fallow is being replanted, more long-term leases are being renewed, confidence is growing, stability is returning and a revitalised industry is beginning to take root.

Two weeks ago, I was able to announce a record cane payment to our farmers, as well as a high price secured for next year’s crop.

As I stand here today, I can confidently say that we are on the right path. It’s no longer just about keeping the industry afloat. We are more ambitious than that. In fact, our long-term goal is to increase production and diversify our industry – adding value to our crop – in order to limit our exposure to the uncertainty of price fluctuations for raw sugar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

International meetings such as this allow us to share our experiences, transfer knowledge and advice, and develop new networks. We have the opportunity to discuss trends and forecasts, and we will hopefully get a clearer idea – collectively – of what the coming years have in store.

There is a lot of ground to cover and I look forward to your active participation and some lively discussion.

I would like to thank the Executive Director, Dr. Peter Baron, and his team, for their hard work in preparing for our deliberations.

Before I invite Dr. Baron to give us an overview of developments on world sugar and an outline of our activities, I would also like to again welcome you to Fiji and say how proud we are to be chairing the International Sugar Council this year.

You are here at a critical time in our history – the development of a new Constitution and the introduction of genuine parliamentary democracy for the first time next year.

We urge you to take time out to enjoy our beautiful country and its unique culture. We have also put together a program, which gives you a taste of Fiji.

Thank you for your attendance and I now invite the Executive Director to address you.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.