Report on MEXPA’s visit to Embassy of the Republic of the Fiji Island

As we take our Malaysia economy and ability, we will also enjoy a greater business dealing in the world trade market. The Malaysian Exporters Association is here on a mission to improve the overall exporting activity of the Malaysia companies and will fill the global demand. Malaysia will now look at fast and growing markets. One such market is the Fiji Island’s market, now chooses its destination ‘Fiji’. The courtesy visit comprising of two members led by MEXPA President, Mr Abdul Kabur Ibrahim. MEXPA’s mission is to find 9 fertile grounds for Malaysia trade entrepreneurs.

This will see them not being late but investing their operations in areas in interest, where there are high prospects for growth and earning potential.

A press interview was conducted in the presence of H.E. Ambassador Suliasi Lutubula, Fiji’s High commissioner to Malaysia. The Press extract says it all that close to 3000 Australia companies export their products and services to Fiji every year and the number continue to rise. Additionally, Fiji earned $ 147.3 million from Australian tourism in a record-breaking third quarter of 2010. Chinese infrastructure giant Sinohydro, will complete the F$ 300 million Nadarivatu hydro project by the end of this year, and has further expressed interest in bidding for two other new projects, in Qaliwana and Wailoa which are also estimated to be worth about F$300 million.

Investors from Taiwan have expressed interest in Fiji’s agriculture mahogany and seafood industries. After a profitable 100 years of exporting and importing Fiji’s premium fresh produce, Turners & Growers opened the company’s own direct business in Suva, Fiji presenting opportunities for New Zealand growers to supply New Zealand products to the Fijian market including retail markets and its top hotels and resorts that caters to international travelers.

This hidden paradise located north of New Zealand and northeast of Australia has a lot to offer and no company, of any size, aspiring to be a global player can for long ignore this country which is expected to become one of the top emerging economies. At approximately 330 islands (100 inhabited) making up 18376 square kilometers of land, The Bainimarama Government capitalized on the opportunity to engage in a unification process that has put the nation on the right track towards realizing its vision of ‘A Better Fiji for All’. Leaning from lessons of its past, the country has begun the radical process of liberating itself from the shackles and crippling link to world oil prices by investing in renewable energy and providing foreign investors wanting to set up arms and ammunition business in Fiji with attractive incentives and tax breaks. The new bauxite mining site at Nawailevu in Bua is progressing well and has paved the way for the exploration and mining of mineral resources from what used to be restricted to just a few natural resources like gold and copper.

In line with most developing countries, the last two decades have seen Fiji adopt an export oriented, outward-looking approach to trade relations. Import restrictions have been largely lifted in favour of export promotion, and as such Fiji now has a more open economy with increased volumes of both exports and imports.

Fiji is a nation on the move. It is one of the more developed of the Pacific island economies, although it remains a developing country with a large subsistence agriculture sector. In an exclusive interview with Malaysia Trade, Fiji’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Suliasi Lutubula reiterated the fact that Fiji is now no longer content with being a small player or taking backseat on the world stage. Instead, the nation has adopted an outward looking-quest and has liberalized and opened its economy to the world. “We are challenging industrialists and we intend to pursue bigger trade opportunities between Fiji and Malaysia to set up joint ventures or wholly owned subsidiaries in various trade fields. We will ensure that we get all our economic cylinders firing non-stop and give these investors fertile grounds for doing business and trade here.”

For many years, sugar and textile exports drove Fiji’s economy. In recent years however, growth in Fiji has been largely driven by a strong tourism industry. Tourism has expanded since the early 1980s and is the leading economic activity in the islands. Tourist arrivals grew by 16.3 percent in 2010. About 45 percent of Fiji’s visitors come from Australia, with large contingents also coming from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Pacific Islands. In 2010 more than 53,000, or around 8.4 percent, of the tourists were Americans. Fiji’s gross earnings from tourism from January to November 2010 totaled USD$399.9 million (F$727.7 million), more than the combined revenues of the country’s top five exports (fish, water, garments, timber, and gold). Gross earnings from tourism continue to be Fiji’s major source of foreign currency.

“Malaysian companies will find Fiji to be the most compelling investment destination with a pipeline for the long term workforce to meet the growing needs of the investing companies,” Mr Lutubula said.
Nevertheless, Fiji has extensive mahogany timber reserves, which are now being carefully and systematically harvested to ensure long-term sustainability. Fishing is also an important export and local food source. During January to September 2010, fish was the leading domestic export. Gold from Fiji’s only gold mine, The Vatukoula Mine, in operation since 1933, is also an important export industry and is expected to continue its positive performance with rising gold prices.

Ranked 62 out of 183 economies in ease of doing business, The Ministry of Industry and Trade and Fiji Islands and Investment Bureau have constantly assured support of foreign investment. “Fiji has a strong manufacturing industry which has spread across to most of the Pacific,” Mr Lutubula said. He added, “We have a friendly business environment, a world-class tourism industry, a lot of potential for development, stable compared to other pacific island nations, an abundance of natural resources and a government is very receptive to all investors. In fact, we are aggressively adopting the essentials listed in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 for higher education and training, technology readiness, and innovation for boosting competitiveness”.

In strengthening bilateral trade and investment between Fiji and Malaysia, Mr Lutubula recently launched the Fiji-Malaysia Business Council in Kuala Lumpur which saw businessmen from prominent companies the likes of Sir Mogan Lourdenadin from MBF Berhad and Carpenter Group of Companies and Dato’ Dr Sharifuddin from Top Symphony Sdn Bhd together with executive officers from Glenreagh Sdn Bhd, Sweitenia Industry, G Pereira & Associates, Northport Malaysia Berhad and Global Supermasters Group participating in the pre-dinner discussion.

Three of these companies are currently operating in Fiji and others will follow suit in the near future. “The formation of the Fiji-Malaysia Business Council is a milestone for Fiji. Malaysian firms should take advantage of Fiji’s strategic location by making it the base to gain market access in the Pacific Islands”, said Mr Lutubula. The existing relationship and strong history between our two countries could also help Malaysian firms to reach a wider market”, said Mr Lutubula.

These sentiments were shared by Malaysian Industrial Development Authority’s (MIDA) Deputy Director-General 1, Datuk Afifuddin Abdul Kadir encouraged Malaysian companies to explore opportunities in Fiji in areas like tourism, food, electrical and electronics, textiles, garment, wood-based products and furniture, agriculture, leather products, industrial minerals, and paper and plastic industries.
“Malaysia can also supply Fiji with a wide range of globally accepted quality products. These include rubber, wood, processed food, palm oil, optical and scientific equipment, and chemical products,” he said. Afifuddin further added that Malaysia could outsource goods from Fiji such as food and marine products, gold, timber and garments.

With bilateral trade amounting to RM127.3 million last year, Malaysia is well-positioned to pursue cross-border investment with Fiji and it is timely for Malaysian companies to reassess their operational strategies and explore investment opportunities abroad. “Opening up operations overseas will enable them to sustain their competitiveness and to strategically position themselves in the global area,” Afifuddin elaborated.

In a bid to bolster trade opportunities between Fijian and Malaysian partners in the field of Malaysian palm oil, Malaysian investors have identified land in Lomaivuna. The developers are seeking a minimum of 30,000 hectares and said the project would generate employment opportunities for locals and raise standards of living.

Currently, palm oil isn’t presently produced on commercial scale in Fiji and the Malaysian government and plantation developers had to deal with other big challenges like labor costs, arable land for palm oil production and NGO campaigns that put pressure on decision makers to impose strict policies on the palm oil industry. “We are the most attractive choice for Malaysian plantation companies. Fiji provides perfect opportunities for growth and faster returns, as other markets in the East still remain challenged due to the recent global recession”, said Mr Lutubula.

The country’s business environment presents numerous opportunities for investment, despite current political challenges. The government’s agenda of creating transparency and modernizing the way business is carried out in Fiji continued unabatedly resulting in a group of Malaysian investors visited the country to explore opportunities in affordable housing projects and infrastructure developments. The investors held discussions with Housing Authority Chief Executive, Alipate Naiorosui with regards to their interest.

Naiorosui has revealed that the investors are keen in carrying out some major projects in the housing sector. “They have shown expression of interest and made submissions on some of the projects for housing constructions not only at lower rates but affordable houses for all segments of our community.” Naiorosui said.

This is the second group of Malaysian construction investors who have come on board. Meanwhile, one of the investors, the Global Supermaster Group of Companies Chief Executive, Ir Wan Muhamad Hatta Bin Wan Mos mentioned that they were there to look at housing needs. “We certainly like to transfer what we have done in Malaysia and come over to Fiji to train the Fijians, to work together with Fijians and move ahead towards better and bigger developments for Fiji.” He said. Naiorosui added that Fiji stakeholders were looking forward to work in partnership with these investors. “We want to strengthen its position by promoting trade and investment that will unlock hidden potential and help accelerate further growth”, he said.

Guided by the willingness to develop fruitful cooperation between both countries in the field of health and medical sciences, a Memorandum of Understanding was recently established between the Ministry of Health Malaysia and the Ministry of Health Fiji on health cooperation. The main objective of the MOU is that both governments subject to the terms of the MOU and the laws, rules, regulations and national policies from time to time in force in each country, agree to strengthen, promote and develop co-operation and collaboration on health matters on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. Both governments have further desire to promote cooperation in the area of health on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit.

“This MOU will see both governments embarking on necessary steps to encourage and promote co-operation in training of medical professionals, medical equipment and pharmaceutical products, health information technology, health tourism and other forms of public health and medical cooperation”, said Mr Lutubula.

The agreement above will be of an excellent addition to the Ministry of Health, Fiji in regards to the facilitation of Hospitals and training of medical professionals. “Malaysia has got best medical facilities that too are available at much lower rates as compared to other developing countries of the world and blessed with quality and cost competitiveness in healthcare sector. It is only wise for Malaysian investors to nurture economic growth and reap the benefits that comes with it”, said Mr Lutubula.
The High Commissioner added that Fiji possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st century. The Fiji government has committed itself to work with Malaysia to enable it to realize this potential.

“We must nurture this relationship by giving it new impetus and a deeper and more intense engagement and collaboration,” Mr Lutubula added. Fiji, no doubt, represents a “gold mine” for trade and investments for Malaysian companies to capitalize on. The country’s growth was not by chance but was due to relentless efforts by the government in improving its industry and business processes, thus creating opportunities for investors to build and sustain economic prosperity by synergizing Malaysia-Fiji business partnerships and grow their economic cake together. Now, it is up to investors and companies from both sides to step up the ante in creating new and profitable market opportunities.

The Malaysian government is happy to see Malaysia investors like Sir Mogan Lourdenadin from MBI and Dato’ Shaharuddin from top symphony, Northport Malaysia Bhd and group supermarket and many more investors, investing in Fiji. MEXPA will lead a trade delegation to Fiji with interested members and business people in coming year 2012.

Area: 18,376 sq. km (7,056 sq. mi.)
Cities: Capital-Suva (pop. 172,948), Lautoka (pop. 52,742), Nadi (pop. 42,712)

Population (mid-year 2011 est.): 851,745.
Age structure: 28.5% under 14; 8% over 60
Annual Population Growth Rate (2011 est.): 0.5%
Ethnic Groups: Indigenous Fijian 57%, Indo-Fijian 37%
Religion: Christian 52% (Methodist and Roman Catholic),
Hindu 33%, Muslim 7%

Languages: English, Fijian, and Hindi are official languages
Education: Literacy (2004): 93%
Health: Infant mortality rate (2009): 15/1000; life expectancy at birth (2009): 69 years

Work force: Agriculture: 67%

Economy (All Figures in USD$)
GDP (2011 estimate): $3.269 billion
GDP Per Capita (2011 estimate): $3,773
GDP Composition by Sector: Services 59.7%, Industry 30.4%, Agriculture 9.9%

Industry: Types – tourism, sugar, garments
Trade (January-September 2010): Exports – $553.9 million: sugar, garments, gold, fish, mineral water. Major Markets – U.K., Australia, U.S., New Zealand, Japan.

Imports – $1.174 billion: mineral fuel products, machinery and transport equipment. Major Sources – Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, China, U.S. ($43.96 million)

Report Submitted by Gopal Nair
Press Correspondence of Trade Magazine