Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sanctions Against Fiji Regime

Billions at stake

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

STAKEHOLDERS in the private sector have warned of severe repercussions to the economy if trade between Fiji and its two major regional partners are disrupted.

It follows a threat by the interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to take "retaliatory measures" against New Zealand and Australia for, among other things, imposing travel bans on people associated with the interim regime.

Fiji Textile Clothing and Footwear Council president Ramesh Solanki said the industry used Australian textiles and raw materials and relied heavily on Australia and New Zealand for the TCF exports. He said sanctions would mean a collapse of the garment industry and an immediate loss of 8000 jobs.

"And there's a flow-on effect of job losses in support industries such as freight, labels suppliers, carton manufactures etc," he said.

Mr Solanki, the chairman of United Apparel Fiji Limited, said the only way the country could move forward is for all parties to co-operate and reach a workable solution. He said our trade relations with Australia and New Zealand were important and Fiji was just as important to them.

"We all need each other and there is a need to engage in meaningful dialogue," he said.

Australia and New Zealand stand to lose almost $1.5billion in business annually if the interim regime carries out its threat.

New Zealand exports to Fiji are $300million annually while Australia exports is worth $1.26billion. Traders said business would be badly affected if retaliatory trade measures were implemented.

The Fiji-Australia Business Council said the bilateral relationship must be protected. Council president Caz Tebbutt said Australia and Fiji had publicly stated they would not put in place any impediments on trade or the private sector.

Fiji Chamber of Commerce acting president Swani Maharaj said Australia and New Zealand were Fiji's biggest trading partner. He said the chamber hoped that the two countries would help Fiji to move forward.

Fiji Retailers Association president Himmat Lodhia said most businesses buy materials from these two countries.

He said if retaliatory measures were taken then the business community would have to adapt to the change but it would be difficult to replace the two countries.

"Australia and New Zealand having been our major trading partners for a long time," he said.

A concerned businessman who did not wished to be named said the retaliatory measures should not be placed.

Fiji-New Zealand Business Council president Laurie Mellsop said the council would reserve its comments on the issue. Fiji Visitors Bureau chief executive Viliame Gavoka said Australia and New Zealand contribute about 57 per cent of Fiji's tourism numbers.

"I'm sure the efforts towards quiet diplomacy initiated by the Interim Prime Minister (Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama) will be successful with both Australia and New Zealand," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama had threatened to impose retaliatory measures on New Zealand and Australia, after Parmesh Chand, a former state chief executive who was appointed as an advisor to the Prime Minister's Office, was not permitted to visit his family in New Zealand.

NZ exports to Fiji threatened

NZPA | Tuesday, 23 January 2007

NZ WARNED: Fiji military boss Frank Bainimarama has threatened retaliation after Parmesh Chand, the new head of the Fiji Prime Minister's Office, was denied entry to New Zealand to visit his family. Fiji's military commander, Frank Bainimarama, has threatened New Zealand's exports to the country unless the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs reconsider travel bans on senior officials from the interim Fijian government.

Bainimarama said his government would not be deterred by "intimidating and bullying" tactics of New Zealand.

"I wonder if both (Winston) Peters and (Helen) Clark realise they are potentially inflicting on their own exporters to Fiji by intimidating and creating fear in minds of our local people."

Bainimarama threatened the retaliation after Parmesh Chand, the new head of the Fiji Prime Minister's Office, was denied entry to New Zealand to visit his family. Bainimarama said it was unfair and unjustified for New Zealand to ban civil servants who were "merely administrators of the government machinery". "Parmesh Chand had no part whatsoever in the December 5 assumption of power by the military. "He, as well as the rest of the civil service, has been instead asked to help steer the nation forward."

Bainimarama called on the New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green to meet Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to explain New Zealand's position.

"Let me stress that if diplomacy does not work, then my government will be left with no option but to adopt retaliatory measures.

"If New Zealand can bring in so-called 'smart sanctions', then there is nothing stopping Fiji in looking at options of its own."

He said he would be sending a high-powered delegation of ministers, senior officials and selected business people to China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia for help in moving the country forward. The purpose was "an effort to diversify our network of sources of imports, tourists, investment, technical cooperation and inflow of aid", Bainimarama said.

New Zealand has condemned the overthrow of democratically elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who Bainimarama accused of being corrupt and causing racial strife by favouring indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority.

A spokesman for Peters said last night that sanctions would remain in place until the administration took "concrete steps" towards the restoration of democratic rule.

A report on the Fijilive website said the interim government had given itself a five-year timeframe until elections would have to be held.

The spokesman said New Zealand was prepared to keep the sanctions in place for as long as necessary.

"If there's going to be an interim administration in Fiji that's not democratically elected for five years then sanctions would stay in place for five years."

Earlier, Clark said New Zealand would look "a little silly" if it bowed to threats by Bainimarama, and she doubted exports would be put at risk.

Miss Clark told National Radio today that during talks she had with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao while in the Philippines for the second East Asia Summit just over a week ago she was reassured China supported New Zealand's actions in the Pacific.

"China indicated through him they were very concerned about instability in the South Pacific and specifically indicated considerable support for what New Zealand was doing in the region."

Miss Clark said New Zealand's position - of not moving on sanctions until Fiji started to restore democracy - stood.

"The New Zealand Government position is very clear - that is we are waiting to see from those who have seized power in Fiji what their proposals are for a pathway back to constitutional government, and that of course would include some very clear signals that political freedom and freedom of speech and media are to return to Fiji.

"We haven't seen these signals yet."

Miss Clark said after the 2000 coup New Zealand kept sanctions in place until the Commonwealth removed Fiji's suspension about 18 months later.

"Now it is very much in Fiji's interests that Mr Bainimarama signals very quickly what his pathway is back to a proper form of government."

Miss Clark said New Zealand's position was in line with the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the governments of Australia, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom.

Qarase has said Bainimarama should be careful not to provoke further sanctions from New Zealand and Australia.

"We should try to put a stop to the coup culture and with the help of our overseas friends this could be fruitful," Qarase said.

"Commodore Bainimarama should be very careful in trying to retaliate to these two countries because if they do likewise, our country could suffer drastically."

source: ABC
News Online - 22 January 2007

Trade bans will only hurt Fijians: DFAT

The Department of Foreign Affairs says Fiji's threat to introduce trade and travel restrictions against Australians and other foreigners will not have the desired effect.

Last week, the chief executive of the office of Fiji's Prime Minister, Parmesh Chand, was barred from visiting New Zealand.

Fijian interim Prime Minister and military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama responded by saying he would retaliate against exports and expatriates from both countries if travel bans on members of the military, interim Government and its executives stayed in place.

A spokesman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs says any retaliation will only harm Fijians.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark says its sanctions will stay.

She says her country's position is the same as those of Canada, the US, the European Union and Australia.

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