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Speech by Commercial Counselor Yang Xunlei at the Symposium commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Ties between China and Fiji
2015/11/06
 

Your Excellency Ambassador Zhang Ping,

Honorable Ministers,

Mr. Chen Jiayuan, Vice Chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of Zhejiang Province,

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon!

I am delighted to join the government officials, business leaders, experts and scholars from both countries to discuss the issues of economic and trade relations between China and Fiji. I would like to share with you my thoughts on where we are and where we are heading to for China-Fiji economic and trade relations.

I would like to start with the bilateral trade. According to the statistics of Chinese Customs, in 1976, the bilateral commodity trade totaled only 2.3 million USD, in 2014, this figure has increased to 340 million USD, with an increase of nearly 150 times. The data also shows that Chinese exports to Fiji in 2014 is 290 million USD and imports from Fiji is 52.9 million USD .

In the past decade, the average annual growth rate of our bilateral trade is 27%. China mainly exports mechanical and electronic products, marine products and household products, and imports wood chips, minerals(bauxite), drinking water and beverage from Fiji. With our joint efforts, Fiji has become China's second largest trading partner among South Pacific Island countries, and correspondingly China has become the third largest trading partner of Fiji, the fourth largest partner of imports and exports respectively.

From the table, we may find something worth noticing: Firstly, the bilateral trade maintains a good momentum of development, but the import and export is not balanced. There is still a lot of room for Fiji to increase its export to China. Secondly, there is a gap between the official trade statistics and the impression we have on China’s imports. Some people would ask why there are so many Made-in-China products in Fiji’s market while the official statistics indicate that China is only the third largest trade partner of Fiji. The fact is that a large number of Chinese goods are re-exported to Fiji from Singapore, Fiji's largest trading partner. The real import from China to Fiji is much bigger. Thirdly, why China exports marine products to Fiji? Because most of the Chinese ocean fishing activities are on the high seas for catching tuna, when the catches are sold on the Fijian shore by the Chinese fishing vessels, it is regarded as China’s export to Fiji.

Trade is only one of the indicators to weigh the economic relationship of two countries. The other two are investment and economic cooperation. During the past 40 years, China and Fiji have carried out extensive cooperation in various economic sectors, such as agriculture, renewable energy, transportation and social welfare.

With regard to agriculture, we are currently implementing Juncao (Mushroom) Technical Cooperation project in Nadi and Rice Technical Cooperation project in Vanua Levu. These projects are intended to support Fiji farmers, promote Fiji exports and achieve the goal of self-sufficiency.

In terms of Renewable Energy, Nadarivatu hydropower project and Wainisavulevu Weir Rising Project are already in operation, and Somosomo Mini Hydropower Project in Taveuni will be completed at the end of this year. This project will provide additional power supply to this beautiful island.

Speaking of transportation, Chinese companies have constructed many roads and bridges such as Nabouwalu-Dreketi Road, Sawani-Serea Road, Buca Bay Road, Sigatoka Valley Road, Moto Road, Navuso Bridge, Naqali Bridge and Rakiraki Bridge. These roads and bridges have brought convenience and economic benefits to the local people. In addition, Stinson Bridge and Vatuwaqa Bridge project are about to start soon, with the aim of easing traffic jam to Suva.

In social welfare sector, Navua Hospital, Vodafone Arena, Village Coastal Protection Project, Fencing work of Thurston Gardens are all constructed by Chinese companies.

All these projects have promoted the economic and social development of Fiji, and improved the livelihood of the Fijian people.

Although we have made a lot of achievements in many areas, I still believe there are lots of potentials that can be taped. If these potentials can be fully taped, the outlook of Fiji’s economic and social development will be very different.

Take tourism as an example, the number of outbound tourists of China in 2014 already exceeded 100 million, while only 28,300 people visited Fiji, and we can see Fiji only took a very small percentage of Chinese tourists. Meanwhile, 363,000 Chinese tourists paid visit to Maldives and around 100,000 to Mauritius. In that sense, Fiji has a huge potential to attract more Chinese tourists.

Now, let’s move on to how to improve our trade relationship and economic cooperation.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between two countries, China and Fiji have signed a series of MOUs on cooperation in areas of agriculture, forestry, fishery and aviation, etc. Along with the deepening of bilateral economic ties, and with the change of time, we need to update some of these MOUs and furthermore to build more practical frameworks by signing new MOUs or establishing new working mechanisms. When Honorable Prime Minister Voreque Bainimarama visited China in July, the governments of our two countries announced the start of the joint feasibility study on China-Fiji Free Trade Agreement. According to the experience of many countries, trade and investment liberalization and facilitation have proved to be an effective tool to promote the country’s economic development. The feasibility study will allow us to find the economic complementarities to each other, so that we can design a more applicable roadmap to win-win outcome and give full play to the respective advantages in the bilateral cooperation.

China and Fiji are both developing countries which have enjoyed a steady economic growth. Fiji has embarked on the road of building a modern nation state and the needs for infrastructure improvement and development are enormous. While we will continue to do what we can to provide assistance under the framework of south-south cooperation, we encourage our Fijian partners to make better use of 2 billion USD soft loan and 2 billion USD special loan for infrastructure development which was offered by the Chinese government for the Pacific Island countries having diplomatic ties with China at the Second China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in 2013 and during President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Fiji in November last year.

China also has the huge market and well-developed manufacturing industry and Fiji has the geographic advantage in South Pacific and great potential in agriculture, fishery, tourism and maritime related industries. To give full play of the role as the hub of the south pacific, foreign investment is essential. Meanwhile, a more sustained and steady legal framework will create a more favorable business environment to attract more foreign investments. As China’s economy continues to grow, there will be more and more Chinese investment coming into Fiji. With these investments, we can manufacture and provide more competitive products locally, and export those products to Chinese market as well as regional markets.

We need to identify the priority areas of cooperation and work out relevant cooperative strategies. Fiji’s organic products of agriculture and forest have strong attraction in Chinese market. Fiji and China should enhance competitiveness of agricultural products through technological cooperation and commercialization. Fiji is situated at the Cross Road of the South Pacific and has good conditions for developing fishery industry, bilateral cooperation in offshore aquaculture, fish processing and sea port construction will help to boost Fiji’s overall economic strength. For tourism industry, the potential is there, in order to attract more Chinese tourists, we need to have direct flight, and more hotel rooms and better services.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The core of bilateral relation is the people to people communication. As I went through the projects archives these days, I was touched by one story which I’d like to share with you. Nearly 20 years ago, there was a Chinese working team led by engineer Mr. Wang Junmin who were in Fiji to carry out the survey for the Hydro power project in Bukaya village. Unfortunately, one day on his routine way to the site, the truck rolled over and he lost his life. He is just an example of thousands of Chinese workers who were in Fiji for their projects. It comes to me that the Chinese construction companies left in Fiji are not just the concrete buildings or the completed projects, but also their devotion and love for this land and their sincere friendship with the local people.

I’m sure that in the future, the dedication and professionalism of Chinese workers will continue, along with the true friendship between our peoples. And the practical cooperation thereafter will surely bring mutual benefits to both countries.

Thank you so much for your time!

Vinaka vakalevu!

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