Fiji Seeks Bilateral Talks With PNG To Resolve Trade Dispute

Trade minister: Countries need to establish ‘bilateral biosecurity pathway’

By Matilda Simmons

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, August 17, 2016) – Fiji's Trade Minister, Faiyaz Koya, says he has written an official letter to his Papua New Guinea counterpart, Richard Maru, for a bilateral meeting to resolve the embarrassing trade impasse between the two countries.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Koya said there had been no bans placed by Fiji on food items or imports from PNG and that it was imperative that the issue was resolved through the proper established framework — the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) agreement.

"There are no unnecessary restrictions that have been placed on PNG imports. Obviously, this is a matter that would have been resolved a lot sooner if the competent authority in PNG — NAQIA (National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority) had gotten back to us on the risk assessments of PNG products, which was raised to them by the Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF)."

Mr Koya said the two countries had not established a bilateral biosecurity pathway to enable the ease of trade between them.

This included imports of broccoli and potatoes from PNG, export of poultry from Fiji, as well as the Ox & Palm corned beef among other products.

He said another reason was there were no importers in Fiji who applied to import the PNG products, specifically the Ox & Palm corned beef.

"When this matter was raised at the MSG meeting in 2014, our competent authority — BAF — made the necessary risk assessments and sent them across to NAQIA.

"There were issues raised by BAF but NAQIA had not come back to us.

"I think the reason behind them not moving ahead was because they informed our biosecurity company that there was no interest in sending products in commercial quantities to Fiji and the matter lay there.

"Currently as it stands, it's sitting with NAQIA, their authority, to get resolved."

According to BAF chairman Xavier Khan, certain processes needed to be established before the bilateral biosecurity pathway was forged.

Meanwhile, Mr Koya said although he had not received the 14-day letter of notice from Mr Maru, his offer to have a bilateral meeting with the PNG Trade Minister still stood.

Fiji Times Online.
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