Monday, September 05, 2011

South Pacific Forum

from w
The South Pacific Forum kicks off in New Zealand but Fiji won't be there - not invited, but there are some strange representatives that don't seem particularly relevant to the South Pacific - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, US Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, and senior representatives of Hungary, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Kyrgyzstan and Bhutan. Wkhy is Kyrgyzstan there, why Spain?
The answer - in an article by Fiji casts shadow on Pacific forum
Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific Editor From: The Australian September 05, 2011 12:00AM:

The latter countries are coming to lobby for seats on the UN Security Council for different terms, including competitors with Australia for the term starting in 2013. Fiji has been campaigning strongly, at regional meetings and in New York, for Luxembourg instead of Australia.

well, that isn't really what the Forum is about is it?

Julie Gillard will be there, cooling her heels and hoping no-one is going to mention asylum seekers and leaky boats crossing the wild seas below Indonesia. She isn't really an expert on Foreign Affairs like Rudd, the PM she replaced. He is much more comfortable with dealing with leaders from many other countries.

The 'problem' of Fiji will haunt the meeting no doubt - what to do with that 'difficult' military regime in the Pacific who according to the grandmas and grandads of the Pacific such as Australia and New Zealand has gone down a path that was never expected by the great man of the Pacifid Ratu Mara.

Money matters will be prominent no doubt. The notes below are from the Australian article.

NZ is planning for a forum focused on the positives, encapsulated in the cliche "sustainable economic development". It is opening the forum processes as never before, to businesspeople to participate.

Canberra has sought for a few years to persuade the UN's top administrator to come to the forum and is especially keen to persuade Ban to commit more resources to helping island countries adjust to climate change.

A free trade agreement between Pacific island countries and the EU, which gives the islands $68 million a year in aid, is in the early stages of discussion.

The extension of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations -- a multilateral free trade deal -- from the 14 forum island countries, who have a loose arrangement in place, to include Australia and NZ, has attracted some controversy, with critics of trade liberalisation claiming Australia has sought to hijack the process.

Hayward-Jones thinks Pacific Island countries will likely put pressure on Australia at the forum to explain why the Australian seasonal worker scheme is not delivering on its promise. This issue will attract renewed interest because new PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has offered access to workers from smaller Pacific countries to the enormous construction and resource projects getting under way in PNG.

Hayward-Jones says the debt distress of some countries, notably Tonga and Cook Islands -- which has in part been caused by an over-reliance on soft loans from China -- may be raised.

But, she adds, Fiji is "the proverbial elephant in the room. Bainimarama's actions show he continues to take no notice of the forum or pressures from abroad to relax Fiji's Public Emergency Regulation or make any credible move towards elections." And some island countries exhibit a split personality on the issue.

Satish Chand, an expert in development economics at the University of NSW, based at the Australian Defence Force Academy, says: "The fact the forum is alive and well 40 years after its creation is a mark of success. However, it is time this regional body carried out a stocktake of its achievements."

Three pressing initiatives require political backing in Auckland, he says: labour market integration, management of the Pacific Ocean including innovative seabed mining, and climate change.

Stewart Firth, from the Australian National University's Melanesia program, says China's influence is growing in the Pacific, "strengthened by its truce with Taiwan over competitive aid-giving".

"In response, the US has rediscovered the South Pacific. The American aid program to the region has resumed after a break of 16 years . . . And [the US] seems to be losing faith in Australia and New Zealand's ability to maintain its interests in the region."

Influence in the islands is being contested, he says, with the United Arab Emirates announcing a $US50m ($47m) aid program, in an area "where it appeared to have no obvious interests".

Gillard, though, has up her sleeve an especially attractive tool for maintaining Australia's influence in the region: a bipartisan political deal to double foreign aid to $8 billion a year or more from 2015, with a big slice of it earmarked for the Pacific.

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