- Foreign relations of Fiji
Fijihas had many coups recently, in 1987, 2000 and 2006. Fiji has been suspended various times from the Commonwealth of Nations, a grouping of mostly former British colonies. It was readmitted to the Commonwealth in December 2001, following the parliamentary election held to restore democracy in September that year, and is currently suspended again after the 2006 coup. Other Pacific Island governments have generally been sympathetic to Fiji's internal political problems and have declined to take public positions.
Fiji became the 127th member of the
United Nationson October 13, 1970, and participates actively in the organization. Fiji's contributions to UN peacekeeping are unique for a nation of its size. It maintains nearly 1,000 soldiers overseas in UN peacekeeping missions, mainly in the Middle East.
Since independence, Fiji has been a leader in the South Pacific region, and has played a leading role in the formation of the
South Pacific Forum. Fiji has championed causes of common interest to Pacific Island countries.
Diplomatic and trade developments
As of 2005, Fiji has become embroiled in a number of disagreements with other countries, including the
United States, Australia, New Zealand, the People's Republic of China, and Vanuatu.
Relations with the United States
Before the 2006 coup, the US government was highly critical of Fiji, causing tensions between the two countries.
Relations with Israel
Israelhave generally been cordial, with Fiji usually taking positions sympathetic to Israel in United Nationsresolutions. Relations were strained in July 2006, however, when three Israelis, who arrived in Fiji on the 13th, were arrested and deported. Amit Ronen, Eldar Avracohen, and Nimrod Lahavwere detained in a jail cell at Nadi Airportfor six hours and deported to Australiathe next day, for alleged mistreatment of Palestinians by Israel. [ [http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3288195,00.html 3 Israelis evicted from paradise - Israel News, Ynetnews ] ]
Relations with Australia
13 April2005, Qarase rejected criticism from Australiaand some other countries over the prosecution and imprisonment of two foreigners charged with committing homosexual acts, which are illegal in Fiji, and said that other countries needed to respect Fiji's independence. Qarase said that as member of the United Nations, Fiji was as entitled as any other country to make its own laws as it saw fit.
The Australian government has taken a more measured position than its
New Zealandcounterpart (q.v.) over the controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Unity Bill currently being debated in the Fijian Parliament. Susan Boyd, a former Australian High Commissionerto Fiji, has strongly criticized the legislation, but Foreign Minister Alexander Downerhas said that it is an "internal matter" and that Australia does not want to get involved. He did, however, condemn recent threats from the Military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to declare martial lawand arrest members of the present government if the bill is passed. The Australian High Commission in Suva told Bainimarama that his threats are not "the proper role for the military in a democracy."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer visited Fiji for two days of talks, from 28-
30 September2005. Downer met government ministers and officials, Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, and Military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama. The talks covered the controversial Unity bill, as well as the future of Fiji's preferential trade access to the Australian market, which the Fijian government regards as a priority. Downer said that he intended to elaborate further on Prime Minister John Howard's promise of a seven-year extension of the SPARTECA-TCFscheme, which assists Fiji's textile, clothing, and footwear industry.
Foreign Minister Tavola expressed grave concern on
7 February 2006about a proposed regional trade agreement(RTA) between Australia and China, saying that Fiji's exports to Australia would be unable to compete with Chinese products. For that reason, Fiji was persisting in its efforts to persuade Australia to renew the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation- Textile Clothing Footwear ( SPARTECA-TCF) scheme, to improve the competitiveness of Fijian exports, the Fiji Livenews service reported.
Fiji Timesreported on 14 September2006 that Prime Ministers Qarase and Howard had discussed possible Australian assistance for the reform of Fiji's sugar industry, with Howard reported receptive to giving aid. Qarase said that he had asked Australia to provide two or three experts to help with the establishment of the proposed Fiji Research Sugar Institute.
About the current coup, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said that the military were "slowly trying to take control" and pressure the PM to resign. [cite news|title=Coup participants will be banned from NZ|url=http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200612051222/coup_participants_will_be_banned_from_nz|publisher=
Radio New Zealand|date= December 52006] Other notable Australians have also commented on the situation such as Australian Prime Minister John Howard. It was reported that Prime Ministers Qarase asked Australian Prime Minister John Howardfor military assistance should a coup take place but was refused.
Relations with China and Taiwan
:"Main article: Sino-Fijian relations"A diplomatic row with the
People's Republic of Chinaerupted on 5 May2005, when Taiwan (ROC) President Chen Shui-bianarrived for a private visit and was welcomed at a private function at Suva's Sheraton Resort by Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Ratu Ovini Bokini(Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs), Senate President Taito Waqavakatogaand several other Senators and MPs, and several judges including Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki. Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavolaasserted that those who attended the welcoming ceremony did so "of their own accord," not as government representatives, and that Prime Minister Qarase's presence in the same hotel where President Chen was staying was purely "coincidental." Chinese Ambassador Cai Jin Biaorejected this explanation, and said that the visit was a violation of the One China Policy, to which Fiji had agreed when diplomatic relations were established in 1975, which would "sabotage relations between China and Fiji." He charged that Prime Minister Qarase and Foreign Minister Tavola had known of the upcoming visit for months. The embassy issued a further statement on 7 May, demanding that Fiji discontinue any effort to establish a dialogue with Taiwan.
The row escalated when, on
16 May, Health Minister Solomone Naivaluvoted in support of Taiwan's bid to gain observer status at the World Health Assemblyin Geneva. Naivalu had apparently done so on his own initiative, contrary to a government briefing, sparking a major public disagreement between himself and Foreign Minister Tavola. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the People's Political Consultative Conference(CPPCC), was dispatched to Fiji and met Prime Minister Qarase during a brief stopover on 21- 22 May, a move that Tavola said was not coincidental. He said that Fiji could not afford to lose China, and that the government would ensure that "careless incidences" like Naivalu's vote in Geneva would not recur. Naivalu responded by saying that his vote was nothing new: "We always support Taiwan to get observer status every year," he said.
10 December2005, the New Zealand Heraldquoted Tavola as saying that Fiji would have to find a way to resolve a stand-off between the PRC and Taiwan, over membership of the Suva-based Council of South Pacific Tourism Organisation; China was resisting Taiwanese attempts to join the organization on an equal basis. [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=2&ObjectID=10359277 "If China had its way it would not want Taiwan on that. So we have to resolve the situation amicably and are looking at how both countries can be represented there,"'] Tavola said.
In defence of the earlier incident over the Taiwanese President's visit, Tavola said that it was the Pacific way to welcome people. "Even when considering Taiwan as a province of China," he went on, "the President of a province is a man of high profile, so when he comes there is an urge to extend hospitality." It did not signify any modification to Fiji's adherence to the One China policy, he had explained to the Chinese ambassador.
China has invested in a number of major projects in Fiji. These include the Suva sports stadium, built for the
South Pacific Gamesof 2003.
14 December2005, Fiji's Military Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimaramabegan an official visit to China, at the invitation of the People's Liberation Army. He reaffirmed Fiji's support for the One China policy.
It was announced on
24 January2006 that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabaowould visit Fiji in April to open the China-Pacific Islands Countries Economic Development & Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference 2006 at Sofitel Fiji Resort in Nadi, a conference of economic and trade ministers from Pacific island countries. Six Prime Ministers from neighbouring countries are expected to participate, according to a Fiji Timesreport on 23 February. His visit to Fiji will be the first by a senior Chinese government official.
In an interview with
PACNEWSon 1 February2006, Jeremaia Waqanisau, Fiji's Ambassador to Beijing, made a stinging attack on the efficiency of the Fijian civil service, saying that it negatively affected Fiji's ability to present itself to China. Cabinet Ministers visited China without the Fijian embassybeing informed, he complained. Certain civil servants were extremely passive in their dealings with China, he said. Another factor inhibiting Chinese investment was the instability caused by friction between the government and the Military, he surmised, and the Fijian embassy in Beijing was continually engaged in damage control.
Relations with New Zealand
10 June2005, Foreign Minister Tavola signed a Memorandum of Understanding with his New Zealandcounterpart, Phil Goff, aimed at fostering cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clarkannounced that New Zealand would double its annual aid to Fiji, from NZ$4 million to NZ$8 million. Much of this aid, the Fijian government revealed, would be used for poverty alleviation and squatter resettlement.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister
Winston Peters(who replaced Goff in late 2005) flew into Fiji on 8 February2006 for three days of talks with Fijian government officials. He met Prime Minister Qarase, Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola, and Military Commander Commodore Frank Bainimaramaon the first day of his visit; meetings with Foreign Minister Tavola and House of Representatives Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikauwere held later. The meeting with Bainimarama attracted some media attention; Bainimarama said that the meeting had been approved by Prime Minister Qarase and that there was nothing underhand about it.
The talks are to cover such matters as the
Pacific Planand a cost-sharing agreement for a citizen education project, promoted by the United Nations Development Programme.
The New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has described the 2006 coup as a "creeping siege on democratic institutions". [cite news|url=http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10413816|title=Clark: Bainimarama attempting 'Thai-style coup'|publisher=The New Zealand Herald|date=
December 52006] New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarksaid that the Fijian constitution only allowed the President to request the dissolving of Parliament if the Prime Minister no longer had the confidence of the Parliament and that this was clearly not the case. [cite news|title=NZ PM condemns Fijian coup takeover|url=http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/200612051457/nz_pm_condemns_fiji_takeover|publisher= Radio New Zealand|date= December 52006] The New Zealand Government has also stated those taking part in the coup will be banned from entry to New Zealand, and that military ties, aid and sporting contacts will be cut. Helen Clark has said in the NZ Herald that she would consider sanctions against Fiji. [cite news|title=NZ suspends aid and sport contacts with Fiji as state of emergency declared|url=http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=2&ObjectID=10414072|date= December 62006|author=Phil Taylor and agencies|publisher=The New Zealand Herald]
Concern over reduced British presence
Foreign Minister Tavola expressed concern on
11 Julyabout moves by the British government to reduce its presence in the Pacific region. "We were not happy with that and on occasions, informed them of the folly of their decision to downsize their presence in the Pacific," Tavola said. Britain has already closed its consulate in Kiribatiand subsequently closed its missions in Tonga2005 and Vanuatuin 2006. Britain has also withdrawn from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, a regional organization of which it was a founding member and a major donor.
Tavola said the British withdrawal could create a power vacuum which others could exploit. A new
Cold Warera could come to the Pacific region, he said, with rivalries between the People's Republic of Chinaand the Republic of China, as well as between PRC and Japan.
Trade war with Vanuatu
* "More on ."
11 March2005, Vanuatuimposed a ban in biscuit imports, ostensibly to protect its own biscuit manufacturing industry, giving a monopoly on the business to the Espiritu Santo-based Wong Sze Singstore. The ban was the second in a year. Bread and breakfast cereals produced by Flour Mills of Fiji(FMF) were the worst-hit; the company claimed to be losing F$2 million annually.
Fiji retaliated on
13 Junewith a threat to impose a total commercial embargo on Vanuatu. Major income-earners for Vanuatu targeted by the Fijian government include Vanuatu kava, valued at almost US$3.2 million, and Air Vanuatuflights (US$8 million).
29 June, Foreign Minister Tavola said that Fiji was "running out of patience" and that he was writing to the government of Vanuatu in what he called a "final gesture of friendship."
27 July, Vanuatu's Trade Minister James Bulesigned an order lifting the ban, effective from 22 July. No reason was given for the change of policy, but the Fiji Livenews service reported that the decision averted a lawsuit from FMF and the threatened kava ban.
Fiji's Foreign Affairs chief executive officer,
Isikeli Mataitoga, said that Fiji's policy of pursuing diplomatic channels in dealing with such disputes had been vindicated. "Whilst I agree that it can take a bit of time to see it through carefully, it nevertheless, demonstrates to our regional friends that we are principled in our approach to international relations and diplomacy," Mataitoga said.
There was another twist on
28 July, however, when FMF Chairman Hari Punjacalled the lifting of the ban a fabrication. He said that in place of the ban, the Vanuatu government had introduced a restrictive new quota system for imports which would make it "impossible" to export to Vanuatu. He called on the Fijian government to continue to pressure its Vanuatu counterparts.
Foreign Minister Tavola denounced the latest move of the Vanuatu government on
3 August, saying that it breached an agreement. On 9 August, he announced that the government had decided to go ahead with its threatened embargo against the importing of Vanuatu kava. On 16 Augustthe Cabinet finalized the decision, banning all imports of Vanuatu kava for six months, after which the ban would be reviewed. On 18 August, Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authoritychief executive Tevita Banuvesaid that importers would be given two weeks to clear their kava stock from the wharf. A special license would be granted only to clear the stock, he said. It would not be usable for importing more kava.
27 August, Tavola announced that following negotiations at the Melanesian Spearhead Groupmeeting in Papua New Guinea, he expected the Vanuatu government to lift the biscuit ban soon. If they did so, he said he would ask the Cabinet to lift the embargo against Vanuatu kava.
The [http://www.Fijivillage.com Fiji Village] news service reported on
11 Octoberthat Vanuatu's Trade Minister, James Bule, would visit Fiji on 25 October. The purpose of the visit would be to deliver his government's decision to lift the ban on Fijian biscuits, in return for Fiji lifting its ban on Vanuatu kava.
In return for Vanuatu's lifting of the biscuit ban on
25 October, the Fijian government announced on 7 Decemberthat it was lifting its kava ban for the sake of freer trade among the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group(MSG).
22 December2005, Vanuatu's Finance Minister Willie Raruaformally apologized to Fiji's Acting Foreign Minister, Pita Nacuva, for having imposed the ban.
Relations with India
Fiji's relationship with
Indiais often seen by observers against the backdrop of the sometimes tense relations between its indigenous people and the 38 percent of the population who are of Indian descent. A major diplomatic event for Fiji in 2005 occurred from 8 to 15 October, when Prime Minister Laisenia Qaraseand Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavolamade an official visit to India.
Relations with Pakistan
Relations with Tonga
It was reported on
2 November2005 that a territorial dispute was looming between Fiji and Tongaover a reef lying to the south of both countries. The people of Ono-i-Lauin the Lau Islandsarchipelago claim that Minerva Reefis part of their traditional fishing ground. Attorney General Qoriniasi Baletold the Lau Provincial Council that the government had a team of experts preparing a case to be taken to the United Nations International Seabed Authority, which is based in Jamaica. The reef has also been claimed by Tongasince 1972, and Tonga's Surveyor General, Tevita Malolo, told Radio New Zealandthat Fiji had never contested Tonga's claim until now.
Relations with Papua New Guinea
Relations between Fiji and
Papua New Guineabecame strained in November 2005, in the wake of revelations that a number of Fijian citizens, possibly mercenaries, had entered Papua New Guinea illegally and were involved in arming and training a separatist militiaon the island of Bougainville.
On a separate matter, PNG Trade and Industry Minister
Paul Tienstenwas quoted in Fiji Villageon 21 February2006 as saying that sanctions against Fiji were being considered, following a Fijian refusal of a PNG kavashipment and an earlier rejection of corned beefshipped from PNG.
Relations with the European Union
European Unionannounced on 3 November2005 that it would increase its assistance to Fijian schools from 2006 onwards. The assistance would cover infrastructure and building, as well as supplying schools with running water and telephone services.
Relations with South Africa
Kaliopate Tavolaannounced on 15 February2006 that South Africawould be the first African country to establish a diplomatic mission in Fiji. Diplomatic relations would open up new opportunities for trade and investment, Tavola said. On 27 February, it was announced that South Africa would be opening a High Commissionin Fiji.
Relations with Brazil
Fiji Livereported on 23 February2006 that Fiji's United NationsAmbassador] Isikia Savuaand his Brazilian counterpart Ronaldo Mota Sardenberghad recently signed a communiqué to establish diplomatic relations. Savua expressed the hope that Fiji's bio-fuels industry could benefit from Brazilian technology.
Relations with Cuba
Fiji's ambassador to the United Nations, Berenado Vunibobo, stated in 2008 that his country could seek closer relations with Cuba, and in particular medical assistance, following a decline in Fiji's relations with New Zealand. [ [http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=38964 "Fiji says Cuban help sought as neighbours turn away"] , Radio New Zealand International, April 4, 2008] Fiji's foreign minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikautook part in the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting in Havanain September 2008. [ [http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/news/stories/200809/s2366887.htm?tab=latest "Cuba-Pacific ministerial meeting underway in Havana"] , ABC Radio Australia, September 17, 2008]
Relations with other countries
In January 2008, the
Fiji TimesOnline reported that the government of Fiji had announced in a cabinet statement that it will establish full diplomatic relationswith four nations: Iceland, Latvia, the Dominican Republicand Estonia. The establishment of relations had been requested by interim Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. cite news |first=|last=|title=New Diplomatic Ties for Fiji |url=http://www.solomontimes.com/news.aspx?nwID=1225|work= Solomons Times|publisher=|date=2008-01-15 |accessdate=2008-01-23]
Fijian missions abroad
Fiji maintains direct diplomatic or
consular relations with countries with historical, cultural, or trading ties to Fiji; Ambassadors stationed in such countries are often accredited to neighbouring countries. Fiji maintains embassies in Belgium(taking care of Fiji's relations with the entire European Union), the People's Republic of China, Japan, and the United States; and High Commissions in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand(in keeping with the Commonwealth practice of calling missions in fellow-commonwealth countries High Commissions rather than Embassies). Fiji also has a Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Foreign reaction to Fijian legislation
New Zealandhave both expressed concern over legislation currently before the Fijian Parliament (as of June 2005), which proposes to establish a Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with the power (subject to presidential approval) to compensate victims and pardon persons convicted of crimes related to the coup d'état which deposed the elected government in 2000.
30 August2005, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnoncalled on the Fijian government to ensure that the legislation reflected the views of its citizens. He emphasized, however, that the Commonwealth did not have a position on the bill.
Fiji and international organizations
Fiji plays an active role in numerous international bodies. The
South Pacific Forumwas largely the brainchild of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji's first Prime Minister. The country has been an outspoken participant many international forums.
Commonwealth of Nations
Fiji has been a member of the
Commonwealth of Nationssince it gained its independence in 1970. It was not a member of the Commonwealth between 1987 and 1997 as a result of a republican coup d'état, and was suspended just 3 years after rejoining between 2000 to 2001 after a military coup, and is currently suspended after the 2006 coup.
Oceania Customs Organisation
1 September2005, it was announced that the Oceania Customs Organizationwould relocate to Fiji in 2006. Though located in Fiji, it would be totally independent of the Fijian government and of the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority(FIRCA), Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola said, and for the first three years of its presence in Fiji, its secretariat would be financed by the New Zealand government.
World Trade Organization
Speaking at the 18th
Fiji-Australia Business Forumin Sydneyon 17 October2005, Prime Minister Qarase strongly criticized the World Trade Organization, saying that its policies were unfair to small countries like Fiji. "WTO is trying to impose equality of trade in an unequal world," he said, "but for developing countries like Fiji there is no level playing field, just a slippery slope." It would be a long time before Fiji's economy could compete on equal terms with that of more developed nations, he considered.
International Labour Organization
10 January2006, the Fijian government criticized the International Labour Organizationfor what it said was the organization's unfair treatment of the Fiji Islands Congress of Trade Unions(FICTU). Labour Minister Kenneth Zincksaid the government had received a complaint from FICTU about the ILO's discrimination against it in favour of the rival Fiji Trades Union Congress.
Speaking at the 6th Session of the
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issuesin New York Cityon 23 May2005, Isikia Savua, Fiji's Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations, called for equal recognition of individual and collective rights in national and international policies. He said that Fiji had embodied both concepts in its Constitution, through such provisions as communal voting (giving each elector to vote for two members of the House of Representatives, one from his or her own ethnic group, and the other from any ethnic group).
1 September2005, Prime Minister Qarase announced his intention to ask his Australian counterpart, John Howard, for more favourable market access for Pacific Island products. He called on Australia and New Zealand to revise the rules of origin under the SPARTECAtrade agreement, and reduce the figure from 50 percent to 35 percent, thereby allowing Fiji to export a higher percentage of garments made elsewhere to Australian and New Zealand markets.
28 October2005, Prime Minister Qarase criticized Australia and New Zealand for refusing to grant temporary work permits to Pacific Islanders. He said the two countries were acting unfairly in assuming that such permits would encourage illegal immigration. The Prime Minister claimed that in the absence of such work permits, Pacific Islanders visiting Australia and New Zealand often undertook illegal employment anyway.
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