Fiji has the largest manufacturing base in the region second only to that of Australia and New Zealand.
This is why Fiji has been dubbed as the trading hub of the region.
Although this has been happening for a while, the trade barriers that exist does not seem to encourage or fully master the potential Fiji has in terms of location, resources and the existing infrastructure.
Currently hot on the heels of all export news in the country right now is that of the Papua New Guinean government announcing the lifting off all import duty on basically around 400 Fiji items potentially destined to be exported to PNG.
The Fiji Export Council last week made the call to all local manufacturers to capitalise on this opportunity to enter the PNG market which has shown a market increase in its trading statistics every year in line with its growing economy.
This week this call is being reiterated.
Chairman of the Fiji Export Council Joe Taoi, in a press release last week stated this will greatly benefit the export industry and particularly our Textile Clothing & Footwear sector.
"Our TCF industry is most developed in the Pacific producing high quality products sold globally and considering PNG population this would allow this sector to diversify our export market," Mr Taoi said.
Many of our top local exporters are already exporting into PNG.
The call for local manufacturers to make use of this opportunity is because the basic infrastructures are already in place.
Our shipping lanes are already in place but can also be boosted with more trading to PNG.
Shipping Services Ltd CEO Bernard Hong Tiy said PNG has a growing economy which will augur well for Fiji's manufacturing business.
"The effect although positive for all has for more positive repercussions for our exporters rather than that of shipping lines — of course there would be benefits to our shipping lines who already service the Fiji to PNG trade lane, as this should mean more cargo," Mr Hong Tiy said.
"But Fiji has a larger manufacturing base than PNG and many of the products manufactured for the Fiji market are also quite suitable for the PNG market, say for example biscuits and snacks.
"However, this could also mean that industrial manufacturer's of steel products for construction etc may also have the opportunity to tap into a market that has had an average 8 per cent growth on GDP for the last 10 years straight, with a growing construction sector and middle class with more disposable income."
The Fiji Export Council is hoping the increase in trade would influence regular shipping and reduced freight costs between the MSG countries.
Also on this revised list as far as TCF is concerned are carpets textile floor coverings, all basic ready-made garments or clothing, sportswear garments, to hand gloves, blankets, belts, socks and handbags.
Also on this list which will great benefit the agro-based export sector are frozen foods and vegetables and processed foods with the exception of salt.
Ready-made snacks, biscuits or spreads like peanut butter and jam of which our local companies have supplied the region with for years also falls under this agreement.
Marine products are also on this list with the exception of mackerel.
Those who would like to view the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement Tariff with PNG to see which items or commodities are exported Duty Free are welcome to give us a call or send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Jone Kalouniviti is a public relations officer with the Fiji Export Council. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.