Bilateral relations between New Zealand and Fiji are expected to rise to a higher level with a new spirit of amity that has begun to pervade between the two countries, following the end of diplomatic winter and years of attrition.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters was on a two-day visit last fortnight to the South Pacific Nation, during which he held talks with Fiji’s Foreign Minister Inia Seruiratu, covering a wide range of matters.
His visit to Fiji was a part of a tour of the region including Tuvalu and Kiribati. His official delegation comprised Social Development Minister and Associate Pacific People’s Minister Carmel Sepuloni, Pacific People’s Minister Aupito William Sio, Members of Parliament Poto Williams (Labour), Alfred Ngaro (National) and Darroch Ball (New Zealand First).
A Press Note issued by the Fijian government said that the two countries pledged their commitment to strengthen collaboration on development issues.
“The visit of Mr Peters will enhance Fiji-New Zealand cooperation at all levels, particularly in terms of trade, investment and people-to-people ties. The visit is timely, given Fiji’s strong leadership in championing the Human Rights and Climate Changes on the international stage, which has dramatically increased Fiji’s engagement with the development partners around the world,” Mr Seruiratu said.
Shifting the Dial
‘Pacific Reset’ were the buzz words at all the discussions and meetings and Mr Peters recalled his reference to ‘Shifting the Dial’ during his address at the Lowy Institute for International Policy a year ago – on March 1, 2018.
Speaking at a public reception accorded to him at the Grand Pacific Hotel on February 28, 2019, Mr Peters said that the New Zealand Government is intensively engaged in the Pacific and that more than 30 government agencies have some form of interest or engagement with Pacific Island States as do Non-Governmental Organisations.
“In many respects, the Pacific is where New Zealand matters more, wields more influence and can have a most positive impact. We see a region challenged by a dizzying array of social and environmental problems, and one attracting an increasing number of external actors and interests. So much is changing in the Pacific and sometimes it is not for the best,” he had said.
Mr Peters acknowledged that South Pacific affords opportunity and empowerment where Pacific countries want to stand as equals, make their own choices and have their distinctive voices heard on the global stage.
“For these reasons we regard it as critical for New Zealand to embark on a new, re-energised Pacific Strategy,” Mr Peters said.
In Fiji, Mr Peters reaffirmed New Zealand’s commitment to work with Fiji to pursue common goals of prosperity and sustainable development.
Emphasising the importance of the ‘Pacific Reset Programme,’ he pledged his government’s support for Fiji’s leadership in championing Climate Change.
In this Reset, the government has promised more resources and we will deliver $714 million over the next four years. We have promised to tackle priority issues, he said.
“We have already supported Fiji’s COP23 Presidency and have announced a further $1.5 million to support the establishment of the Pacific Regional NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) hub in Suva. There is a lot more to come and we are interested in partnering with Fiji on innovative Climate Change Policy and other new initiatives,” Mr Peters said.
He said that New Zealand’s High Commission in Suva will be strengthened with two new posts – a new Counsellor dedicated to Fiji Relationship and a First or Second Secretary to strengthen New Zealand’s engagement with regional and multilateral organisations.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters with his Fijian counterpart Inia Seruiratu in Suva on Thursday, February 28, 2019 (RNZ Picture by Koro Vaka’uta)
Winston Peters speaking at the Reception at the Grand Pacific Hotel in February 28, 2019 (Supplied)