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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 10) - Fiji could be looking to having its first petroleum refinery in the country if a feasibility study to be conducted by an interested petroleum company from Dubai later in the year is deemed successful. This has come about as a result of discussions between the trade and investment delegation led by the Minister for Commerce, Industry, Investment & Communication, Taito Waradi and a group of investors in Dubai.

Discussions highlighted the current demand by Fiji and other Pacific island countries for petroleum and bi products, a statement from the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Board says.

The FTIB says a company in Dubai has shown keen interest to visit Fiji later in the year to conduct a feasibility study aimed at exploring the viability of establishing such a project in Fiji. A representative from the financial sector also expressed interest in exploring the setting up of a financial institution in Fiji to provide a full range of merchant banking services. The representative is expected to visit Fiji shortly to pursue this interest further.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a lucrative market in the Arab region and the present mission was also geared to explore prospects of exporting to this market. Meetings with the private sector in Dubai revealed that demand exist for Fiji products such as fresh fish and fisheries products, processed and sawn timber, halal meat including poultry, beef and goat meat, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Discussion focused on how these demand can be translated into orders.

The present demand is not only restricted for the UAE but also the whole Gulf region considering Dubai as the entreport and transshipment point for the area.

To facilitate market access into UAE, companies in Dubai are also interested in assisting their Fiji counterparts with infrastructure development, technical expertise and capital required to set up operations intended to provide consistent supply of quality products on time.

The Fiji delegation also met with senior representatives of the UAE's Ministry of Tourism and Commerce discussing investment opportunities within the tourism sector in Fiji. Both parties have agreed to hold further talks on how this can be progressed further.

Labour shortage in UAE was also discussed arising from the large number of projects that were presently being developed in the country.

There is a possibility of Fiji capitalising on these opportunity by exporting skilled labour to this market. Further talks are expected to be held on this issue when the delegation returns to Fiji, the FTIB says. The Fiji delegation visited the Jebel Ali Port and was met by senior executives of the Dubai Port (DP) World, UAE.

Discussions centred around logistics of the container freight and safety storage facilities and Dubai's strategic location at the crossroads between East and West has made it the leading hub linking Europe and the Far East. The city is now the acknowledged gateway to a market of an estimated 2 billion people in the Middle East and the surrounding region, the FTIB said.

Dubai's ports have also established itself as an efficient port container handling storage and transshipment, making it one of the leading transshipment centers in the world serving more than 100 shipping lines. It is ranked 9th amongst the leading container ports of the world.

As a result of the visit to JAFZA, Waradi has promised that the Fiji Government would keenly explore opportunities of replicating the JAFZA concept whereby the port, customs and the free zone are all strategically located in an identified area.

Waradi also extended an invitation to Dubai's Port World to undertake a feasibility study in Fiji for the possibilities of developing Fiji's ports into becoming a real hub for transshipment of goods in the South Pacific.

Dubai's Port World has as a result of this request, sought detailed information on Fiji's port facilities to make prior assessment on the viability of such a proposal before conducting the expected feasibility study.

Meanwhile, a memorandum of understanding has been drafted to be signed between the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and the Fiji Chamber of Commerce. The MOU hopes to enhance collaboration between the two countries in trade, investment and economic relations.

The Fiji delegation also met with the Dubai Economic Zone, Dubai Holdings (FTIB's counterpart agency) and the Emirates Airlines before leaving for Singapore on Sunday.

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