Foreign relations of Vanuatu

Foreign relations of Vanuatu

Vanuatu maintains relations with more than 65 countries, and has a very modest network of diplomatic missions. However, only Australia, France, New Zealand, and the People's Republic of China maintain embassies, high commissions, or missions in Port Vila. The British High Commission closed in 2005 after maintaining a presence for almost a century.

The government's main concern has been to bolster the economy. In keeping with its need for financial assistance, Vanuatu has joined the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT). According to ABC Radio Australia, "Foreign policy issues that feature in Vanuatu include wide support for the Free West Papua Movement and broadly for independence throughout Melanesia, the One China Policy and relations with Australia and New Zealand." On the latter topic, guest worker programmes feature prominently. [ [ "Uncertainty after Vanuatu's general election"] , ABC Radio Australia, September 9, 2008]

The government encourages private enterprise, foreign investment, and producer cooperatives. Like other developing countries, Vanuatu is particularly interested in enterprises that add value to local primary products and that provide employment. In less lucrative sectors, the government sets up its own production companies or enters joint ventures with foreign investors.

Since 1980, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand have provided the bulk of Vanuatu's development aid. A number of other countries, including Japan, Canada, Germany, and various multilateral organizations, such as the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific, the UN Development Programme, the Asian Development Bank, the European Economic Community, and the Commonwealth Development Corporation also provide developmental aid. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Japan also send volunteers.

Vanuatu retains strong economic and cultural ties to Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and France. Australia has provided the bulk of Vanuatu's military assistance, training its paramilitary mobile force and also providing patrol boats to patrol Vanuatu's waters.

Vanuatu briefly recognized the Republic of China (Taiwan) in late 2004 when on November 3 Prime Minister Serge Vohor signed a communiqué in Taipei with ROC Foreign Minister Mark Chen. Taipei had offered $30 million in aid in return (compared with the $10 million given by the PRC). Under the One-China policy, this would result in the severing of ties with the People's Republic of China. However, Vohor did so without consultations with his cabinet and the PRC Foreign Ministry, quoting the Vanuatuan Foreign Minister, denied ties with the ROC had been established. The Vanuatuan Council of Ministers, in the Prime Minister's absence, announced on November 11 that the communiqué had been withdrawn but a spokesman for the Prime Minister denied this a day later. There were reports that previous attempts by Vohor to travel to Taipei were thwarted amid pressure from Beijing so his latest visit was done secretly on purpose. For a period of few weeks, both the PRC and ROC had diplomatic missions posted in Vanuatu with the Vanuatuan government in internal disagreement. At one point Prime Minister Vohor punched the PRC ambassador when approached to explain why the flag of the Republic of China was flying over the hotel where the Taiwanese representative was posted. The standoff ended on December 11, 2004 when the parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against Vohor and replaced him with Ham Lini.

On 11 March 2005, Vanuatu imposed 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 Sing store. The ban was the second in a year. Bread and breakfast cereals produced by Flour Mills of Fiji are the worst-hit.

The Fijian government retaliated on 13 June with 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 Vanuatu flights (US$8 million).

In the late 2000s, Vanuatu began to strengthen its relations with Cuba. Cuba provides medical aid to Vanuatu, sending doctors to the country [ [ "Cuban Physicians to Aid 81 Nations"] , Prensa Latina, March 29, 2008] and providing scholarships for ni-Vanuatu medical students to study in Cuba. [ [ "Vanuatu to get six doctors from Cuba"] , Radio New Zealand International, August 10, 2008] In September 2008, a representative of the ni-Vanuatu government attended the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting in Havana. The meeting aimed at "strengthening cooperation" between Cuba and Pacific Island countries, notably in coping with the effects of climate change. [ [ "Cuban Foreign Minister Opens Cuba-Pacific Islands Meeting"] , Cuban News Agency, September 16, 2008] [ [ "Pacific and Cuba meet to discuss co-operation"] , Radio New Zealand International, September 17, 2008]

International organization participation

ACCT, ACP, ADB, Commonwealth of Nations, ESCAP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), IOC, ITU, NAM, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WMO, WTO (applicant).

International disputes

Vanuatu claims Matthew Island and Hunter Island east of New Caledonia

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