Fiji’s doors are wide open to New Zealand companies looking for trade partnerships in an ever-growing market. Peter Rudd from the Fiji Trade Commission to New Zealand’s Auckland office explains why the timing for business opportunities across both markets has never been better.
For the majority of Kiwis, Fiji has long been a popular holiday destination – lured by the warm and friendly Fijian people, well-appointed resorts and unspoilt beaches.
However, increasingly amongst business circles, Fiji is being recognised for its more open trade and investment environment.
You may be surprised to learn that there is now around NZ$1 billion in two-way trade between the two neighbouring countries. Traditionally driven by its large agricultural sector – particularly sugar cane – Fiji’s economy has been steadily accelerating over the past decade, helped by a stable currency, growing population (912,241 in 2018) and rising tourism numbers.
GDP is expected to grow a further 3.3 percent in 2019 (Source: 2018 Asian Development Outlook report) and Fiji has now enjoyed nine successive years of stable economic growth and is forecast to continue on this growth trajectory.
Nobody understands the trade opportunities that exist more than Peter Rudd, manager trade and investment – New Zealand, from the Fiji Trade Commission to New Zealand’s Auckland office.
Rudd has been in the role since the inaugural trade and investment office was set up in the city in February 2018, around the same time a trade and investment arm was added to the Fiji High Commission in Sydney. The Fijian government has been focusing on strengthening its trade and investment relations with both Australia and New Zealand and in the process creating jobs and economic growth in Fiji.
Rudd, who sits on the executive committee for the New Zealand-Fiji Business Council, has also been pitching the need for a dedicated trade commissioner in Fiji.
Talking to NZBusiness in January, Rudd says the majority of two-way trade with New Zealand is inward investment by Kiwi companies in Fiji, involving either goods or services. But his organisation has also been busy opening doors and creating inroads for Fijian growers and suppliers to access niche New Zealand food retailers such as Farro Fresh and Huckleberry. Ethically-produced organic products, commonly produced in Fiji, are increasingly in demand in New Zealand. The fact that they are produced in Fiji automatically adds a great deal of brand value, believes Rudd.
On the ground in Fiji Rudd’s office works with sister organisation Investment Fiji, based in Suva, to set up meetings, site visits, facilitate discussions, conduct market research and do everything they can to assist businesses out of the starting blocks.
In terms of investment opportunities into Fiji, Rudd says they’re working with a variety of companies and sectors, including contact centres looking to outsource services from Suva facilities. Some of the biggest Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies in the region have been attracted by the quality and cost-effectiveness of the local labour market, favourable tax rates and other cost advantages. Currently the largest Fiji-based call centre employs 1000-plus locals and operates 24/7.
“Call centres in New Zealand are struggling to attract and retain staff, and here’s an easy solution,” says Rudd.
He believes the time is right for improving trade between Fiji and New Zealand – particularly in light of the New Zealand Coalition Government’s ‘Pacific Reset’ policy which many believe is designed to counter investment initiatives from Southeast Asian and East Asian countries such as China.
“It represents a NZ$1 billion investment across the Pacific over four years, but Fiji is definitely a hub and key beneficiary,” he says.
And while it may never match New Zealand in regard to ease of doing business, Fiji is aware of the need to improve its business compliance requirements and reduce the ‘checks and balances’. There’s talk of a ‘one-stop shop’ similar to New Zealand’s to make setting up a business easier, and much is being done to assist the establishment of small and micro-businesses, Rudd says.
He believes Kiwis would be surprised to learn how the Fijian market has moved on in recent years and at the level of technology-driven initiatives helping make business easier to conduct. For example, EFTPOS is almost ubiquitous in Fiji, with the banks endeavouring to make commerce more business-friendly and to reduce reliance on cash.
For New Zealand companies the diversity of opportunities in Fiji is impressive, says Rudd.
Kiwi construction companies are heavily involved in Fiji’s major infrastructure, roading and tourism projects. There are further opportunities in outsourcing, he says, for businesses looking to save costs but still provide a premium level of service.
The agriculture and clothing sectors also offer a wide range of opportunities; Fiji’s state-of-the-art contract clothing manufacturers benefit from a number of tax and duty benefits to make them cost-effective partners for New Zealand’s leading retail fashion brands, as well as corporate apparel and sports uniform suppliers.
Rudd says you don’t have to look very hard to find Kiwi companies experiencing strong business growth in the Fiji market – such as HVAC/mechanical services solutions provider Aquaheat South Pacific. Or Fiji brands doing well in New Zealand – such as the Pure Fiji range of natural beauty therapies.
With its stable political and economic environment, and latest outreach on business and trade, there’s no doubt that Fiji will increasingly become a focus for New Zealand companies – either for trade or investment.
In 2019 ‘friendly Fiji’ – where everybody greets you with a smile and a “bula” – is well and truly open for business.
For more information about trade and investment opportunities in Fiji go to www.investinfiji.today.