Collective solutions to counter challenges: Fiji PM on China FM visit

Fiji’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has dismissed concerns about the recent visit by China’s FM Wang Yi, saying such engagements are important in addressing global challenges that have arisen of late.

Bainimarama said since Yi’s last visit in 2018, much has changed on the global front with the pandemic that has upended the world economy, intensified climate impacts, rising food, fuel, and freight costs stemming from Russia’s war in Ukraine, all of which underlines the need to work together.

“We cannot retreat from the field of multilateralism in the face of these multiple crises. Indeed, global co-operation and international law have never mattered more,” Bainimarama said.

“As we build back better and stronger, Fiji will continue to seek fertile ground for our bilateral relationships. The challenges our people face will only intensify until collective solutions rise to meet them.

Our meeting today was guided by mutual respect and the common interest of our people’s continued socio-economic progress. We have a solid foundation on which to build; Fiji’s friendship with China has helped develop infrastructure, train our people, and deliver essential medical supplies which accelerated our post-pandemic recovery.”

Yi echoed the same sentiments adding that its interest in Fiji and the Pacific was not as a newcomer but as an old friend respectful of each country’s sovereignty and with no political strings attached.

He further defended China’s presence in the region, saying it was no different from their other engagements.

“China is a major developing country and a major country with a great sense of responsibility. We’re not just supporting South Pacific countries, we’re also supporting countries in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America and Caribbean. We’re doing this today and we have been doing this over a long time….Because China always stand together with the rest of the developing world, in particular small and medium-sized.

“My advice for those people is don’t be anxious and don’t be too nervous. Because the common development and prosperity of China and all the other developing countries will only mean greater harmony, greater justice, and a greater progress of the whole world.”

During the meeting, Bainimarama also sought a stronger commitment from China on climate action to align with their 1.5 degrees Celsius target of the Paris Agreement and phasing out of coal and other fossil fuels by all economies. The two foreign ministers also discussed the importance of combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, opportunities to expand sustainable ocean management in the Pacific, and ways to help Fijian exporters place their products in the Chinese market.

Bainimarama and Yi then met with other foreign ministers for the 2nd China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers Meeting which Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna was also part of.

Addressing the Chinese delegation, Puna echoed Bainimarama’s sentiments about the threat that climatic conditions pose to the survival and livelihoods of Pacific islanders and the Paris Agreement targets thus require “urgent and deep climate change action” from countries that identify themselves as “being a true partner and friend to the Pacific.”

He also welcomed greater engagement with China on adapting to life with COVID-19.

To all Pacific island foreign ministers, Puna said whilst they engage in the best interest of their respective countries, they must also bear in mind, “that as a collective, we are stronger and more effective.”

“I strongly urge us all, Members and partners alike, to recognise and harness our shared strengths in the Pacific – our culture and heritage; our island and ocean resources; and our natural environment, and forge a partnership based on mutual respect, and collaboration.

 “In closing, allow me to encourage and invite China and all our international partners, to work with us, in taking forward our regional ambition, for a sustainable, inclusive future for all.”

Prior to arriving in Fiji over the weekend, Yi was in the Solomon Islands, then Samoa, meeting their respective leaders. He left Fiji this morning for Tonga.

Photo: Fijian Government

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