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Opening the market

Jone Kalouniviti
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FIJI has a lot to learn from Korea which is an export driven economy.

Fiji also has a lot to gain through this new partnership as Korea is also an aid donor to over 180 countries worldwide.

The level of Korea's investments in Fiji is well behind other Melanesian countries and is something Fiji could be well looking into soon.

This was revealed at the recent business forum between Fiji and Korea held last week in Suva. Korean investors were in the country recently to look at potential areas of investment and also the export sector.

Korean Ambassador to Fiji, Hae-wook Cheong said Fiji was ranked 112 out of the 183 overseas investments Korea has and is behind other MSG countries. PNG is ranked 78, Solomons 106 and Vanuatu 108 in terms of the level of investments they receive,

The Boston Consulting Group, one of the world's leading adviser on business strategy rates Korea the leader in displays, semi-conductor, shipbuilding, patent productivity, and e-Gov Development Index. More importantly, Korea boasts of stable and cheap power supply. There's no power outage in Korea, different from most advanced countries, including the US.

In information technology skills, science infrastructure, and production of petrochemicals, Korea ranks 3rd. Korea ranks 5th in automotive manufacturing and R&D expenditure percentage of GDP.

Opportunities for Fiji

Korea has for the past few years rated Fiji as its major supplier of scrap metal, tuna and water from the region.

Improvements in the tuna export sector and formalising the scrap metal industry will only improve numbers. It was also discussed at the forum how they can value-add to these industries through the use of their expertise in manufacturing and technology.

Already as a measure of how much they are willing to invest, plans are in the pipeline to establish another artesian water plant in the Tavua area in 2013, near the famous Fiji Water plant from where another new Fiji drinking water brand will be launched specifically for the Korean market.

Though relations was established with Korea from 1971, trade has been rather slow between both countries which is reflected in imports from Korea which stands at $25million annually against our exports to Korea which is valued at around $20m.

Korea is well known for their ship-building expertise and resources and also has some of the largest and most efficient wharf system in the world. This is a great opportunity for Fiji to tap into if Fiji is to be truly the trade hub of the region.

There is however, great interest from Korea to tap into Fiji's potential to produce renewable energy from our natural resource base.

"This is the way of the future," Mr Cheong said.

"And we can look at ways where we can help each other. To be more specific, Korea's strength in manufacturing and marketing of high-tech products bodes well with Fiji's strength in primary industries and service sector," he said.

In the marine industry, Korea has already tapped into our tuna sector but opportunities also exist in other areas like seaweed farming for food and pharmaceutical use.

"What you cannot supply in volume you can always substitute with quality to find your niche markets, because some of your products are very unique," Mr Cheong said. The idea to supply marine products for Korean aquariums is also up for discussion. He has called on Korean businesspeople to take advantage of Fiji as a gateway to a growing market in the Pacific.

He said he would like to see more businesspeople in Fiji look beyond traditional trading partners, Australia and New Zealand, and to exploit what Korea can competitively offer in areas of ICT, general retail merchandise items and machinery.

"Exposing Fijian market to more competition will lower prices, boost sales and increase consumers' welfare," he said.

Fiji already has flights to Korea in place with their office already established in Nadi.

Fiji's ambassador to Korea Filimone Kau revealed that a feasibility study is in progress to prove how feasible investment in Fiji is.

"They agree that there is a lot of potential here and should the feasibility study prove that investment is feasible, they stand ready to set up businesses," Mr Kau said.

Several investors have already expressed interest in the areas of renewable energy as the world and the region looks at ways and means to combat climate change.

The Mauna Hydro Station constructed in 1997 was built through Korean Aid.

* Jone Kalouniviti is the media relations officer for the Fiji Exports Council

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