Dr Kedrayate (middle) is flanked by Professor Niu (left) and Mr Savou (right) after the seminar.
A China-Pacific Economic Cooperation Seminar was held at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 15 October 2019.
The two guest speakers were Beijing Foreign Studies University’s Professor Lucy Niu from its Research Centre for Pacific Studies and Mr Samuela Savou, Director/Consultant of Nalele Consulting, former Trade Commissioner (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) and Director of Communications at the Beijing City International School.
In her presentation, Professor Niu stated that the China-Fiji diplomatic relationship was established in 1975 and in 2005, the first China-PICs Economic Development Forum was held in Nadi, Fiji, which was attended by the Premier Wen Jiabao.
She said that in 2014, President Xi Jinping made a state visit to Fiji and three years later in 2017, Fiji applied to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. AIIB currently has 74 members as well as 26 prospective members from around the world.
In 2018 the “Belt & Road” cooperation Memorandum of Understanding was signed. The BRI is a global development strategy adopted by the Chinese Government involving infrastructure development and investments in 152 countries and international organisations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.
She explained that the China Concessional Loan refers to the medium and long-term low-interest loans by the Chinese Government. It was proposed in 1995 in order to upgrade government aid into financial support on marketing-based projects.
Mr Savou presented on China-PICs Win-Win Economic Cooperation: From a Pacific Islander’s Perspective, an outstanding example of which was the establishment of the Confucius Institute at USP, which is today a Model Confucius Institute.
He noted that some of the challenges faced by Pacific Islands with regards to trade with China include language and cultural barriers; access to markets; and lack of technical knowledge and expertise.
With regards to Investment, PICs often lack the expertise in presenting investment proposals; there is a tendency to look at the bigger markets like Fiji and PNG; and respective countries are at different stages of service facilitation for investors.
In terms of Tourism, Mr Savou stated that there is a lack of investment by the Pacific to promote it as a tourist destination in China.
“There is also a huge lack of connectivity to the Pacific, a lack of understanding of the Chinese/Asian tourist and a lack of product differentiation and creation of value,” he stated.
He emphasised that opportunities for Pacific Islands in China/Asia include niche products, seasonal tropical fruits, establishment of quarantine protocols for agricultural products and air connectivity including direct flights, among many others.
Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) commended the organisers, the School of Economics and the Confucius Institute for the educational awareness saying that there should be more of such events.
She also acknowledged the two presenters, Professor Niu and Mr Savou, for the informative session saying she, together with the audience, had learnt a great deal about China’s involvement in the Pacific.
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