The Hub and Spokes II Programme provides trade experts to national ministries and regional trade organisations to enhance trade capacity in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states. It is a joint programme of the European Union (main donor), ACP Group Secretariat, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Hillary Kumwenda is a National Trade Adviser deployed to Fiji Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.
Read his blog below:
Fiji is an open economy classified by the World Bank as a middle income country. The country is reform oriented in order to boost trade development, and is strategically positioned within the South Pacific region.
Since 2014, my focus has been on supporting the Fiji Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism in realising its long term trade, investment and industrial policy objectives in order to become a vibrant, dynamic and internationally competitive economy.
The overarching vision for Fiji is to act as a trade, industrial, investment and services hub for the Pacific region, which is effectively integration into regional and global value chains. The support is aimed at a “Better Fiji for All”. My role also extends to other government ministries and the private sector.
Domestic trade policy development contributes to enhancing market access, industrial development, productivity and competitiveness of products domestically and internationally. It also plays a pivotal role in influencing both domestic and foreign direct investment flows into Fiji, especially in the sectors with a demonstrated advantage in export potential - in order to take advantage of the markets secured through international trade negotiations.
My Hub and Spokes II work programme has particularly focused on the areas of policy and strategy development, trade negotiations, human technical capacity building and private sector development. This includes the development of an investment promotion strategy and initiatives to enhance market access for Fijian producers (of both goods and services).
Technical support in the drafting of the first ever comprehensive Fiji Trade Policy Framework (FTPF) seeks to facilitate a coordinated and consistent approach to Fiji’s trade policy to better maximise development gains, by enhancing growth in the Fijian industrial base, investment, exports of goods and services as well as facilitate effective participation in trade and investment negotiations.
In addition, the FTPF recognises the private sector as the engine for economic growth and the micro, small and medium enterprises as the backbone of the Fijian economy.
The FTPF has become a single reference point on issues of trade, investment, tourism, industrial development as well as implementation of initiatives designed to streamline investment approval processes and trade facilitation related aspects.
Capacity building programmes are vital in delivering trade policy objectives – widening Fiji’s officials understaning of trade policy issues, international trade law, competition, consumer protection, economic development issues and the functioning of the multilateral trading.
This has improved the effectiveness of their work, and also contributes to their participation in the work of Fiji’s trade policy formulation and implementation. This has, in particular, provided valuable input into the negotiation processes that Fiji is engaged in at the regional and multilateral levels.
I have been supporting in-trade negotiations to enhance access to regional and global value chains. This is particularly important for Fiji as a small and vulnerable economy, in accessing larger markets.
Fiji is a member of the WTO, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, UNCTAD, Melanesian Spearhead Group, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and others. I have been supporting the Pacific regional trade negotiations under PACER Plus which includes 14 Pacific Island Countries, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the Melanesian Free Trade Area which were recently concluded.
The Melanesian Free Trade Area will be established in 2017 to facilitate free trading between Melanesian sub-regional members, including in goods, services, labour mobility and cross border investment.
Technical support to Fiji in multilateral negotiations and WTO engagement has also been vital, particularly under the Doha Development Agenda negotiations, acceptance of the Protocol Amending the WTO TRIPS Agreement and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement needs assessments.
The WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement oversees the global reform of customs procedures. Collaboration and better defined roles amongst the relevant Fiji border agencies contributes to efficiency at the border and reduces the cost and time to clear goods.
In improving the business environment for trade, from implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement to the Fiji Trade Policy Framework, Fiji can more effectively harness opportunities in regional and global value chains for domestic development.