U.S and Pacific explore platform for economic development engagement

A regional workshop on trade, investment and private sector development recognises that the United States remains one of the key trading partners in goods and services for Pacific Island economies.

The two day meeting at the Fijian Hotel on Yanuca Island will among other things explore how Pacific exporters can take advantage of the U.S Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

“Historically, Pacific Island Countries have had a reputation for being relatively high cost locations for doing business but with advances in new technology, farming, manufacturing and other production methods, combined with business friendly policies, Pacific countries have taken big strides in mitigating their challenges, said Andie Fong Toy, the deputy secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

She said there is a paradigm shift in the way of doing business in the Pacific – responding more to the needs of the private sector.

“One such the example is the work undertaken on the Pacific Island Countries National Trade and Investment Policy Frameworks allowing for an inclusive approach in the broadest levels of engagement.

The U.S and Pacific Island Countries need to create a platform where economic development engagement can flourish, said Fong Toy.

A study that outlines additional benefits Pacific Island Countries can secure from such an arrangement has been completed.

“We will be seeking the views of the Office of the U.S Trade Representative on this matter in due course, said Fong Toy.

Currently, the U.S is home to one of the world’s largest Pacific Islands’ diaspora, which creates a lucrative market for Pacific Island products.

“Recent trade statistics show that the U.S market absorbed 19 percent of Pacific Island Countries agricultural and processed food exports such as ginger, cocoa, coffee, tea, taro, cassava, yams, vanilla, fruit extracts among others.

In 2013, the U.S accounted for 10 percent of Pacific Island Countries total exports of marine products.

Fong Toy said there is a significant trade and investment opportunities between the US and Pacific Island Countries that both parties need to effectively facilitate.

United States Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, Kurt Tonga is attending the regional workshop. He is the highest level U.S official on trade and investment issues to visit Fiji in over ten years.