FIJI – AUSTRALIA: Overview
Australian High Commission
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
It has been another busy year for the Fiji-Australia bilateral relationship.
2015 saw a steady stream of senior bilateral visits both to Fiji and from Fiji (the High Commission was kept very busy). Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama visited Australia in October, to open the Australia Fiji Business Forum as well as to celebrate Fiji Day with some of the many Fijians living in Sydney.
We were delighted to have Fiji Ministers Mereseini Vuniwaqa (Land and Mineral Resources), Faiyaz Koya (Industry, Trade and Tourism) and Laisenia Tuitubou (Sports and Youth) also visit Australia during 2015.
Australia’s new Minister for International Development and the Pacific visited Fiji three times, and the then Australian Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Christopher Pyne, also visited Fiji. We were also pleased to host another visit by Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Children, Natasha Stott Despoja, whose commitment to Fiji and the Pacific has been demonstrated by her numerous visits.
Defence cooperation, a traditional pillar of the bilateral relationship, also resumed. A particular highlight was the first joint planning exercise between the Australian and Fijian military in November focused on preparation for a natural disaster.
Collaboration between Fiji’s new Parliament and the Australian Parliament sprinted ahead. In March 2015, a Fiji Parliamentary delegation, led by Speaker of Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni, visited Australia. This visit was reciprocated in July by an Australian Parliamentary delegation led by Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald. The President of the Senate, the Hon Stephen Parry, as well as the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Brownyn Bishop, also stopped by for visits in 2015.
Australia’s 2015 development program of over $100million continued to make a practical difference to the lives of Fijians. Eighty five primary schools, with a focus on those in rural, remote or maritime areas, benefited from improved infrastructure, training for teachers, new books and other resources. We helped Fiji’s community health workers to hold awareness sessions on the importance of seeking early antenatal care.
Fiji’s doctors and nurses were also trained on international standards for maternal and child hospital care. Our Fiji Community Development Program was busy again this year. Since 2012 it has successfully supported 65 civil society organisations, reaching 113,000 beneficiaries (51 per cent female, 88 per cent in rural areas) in 540 communities and 208 schools.
Australia continued its strong, mutually beneficial, economic relationship with Fiji. Two-way trade in goods and services tracked at over $3billion annually. 2500 Australian companies now trade with Fijian businesses. And Fiji welcomed over 360,000 Australian tourists in 2015.
“We look forward to another busy year. We hope to conclude the PACER Plus negotiations, which will provide great opportunities for Fijian exporters and will integrate the Pacific market.”
As both a trade and development agreement, PACER Plus will also help to increase foreign investment, lower costs, expand services trade and increase labour mobility.