Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is standing by his decision to back Australia and New Zealand against calls from Fiji to have them removed from the Pacific Islands Forum.
Back in Samoa after the recent Forum Meeting where his Fijian counterpart, Frank Bainimarama’s views were again highlighted, Tuilaepa said Australia and New Zealand are members of the Pacific and such calls are unfounded.
Besides, Tuilaepa said N.Z. and Australia are wealthier nations who have the financial capabilities to help the Pacific.
“Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa are founding members of the Pacific leaders group,” he explained.
“It started with Tonga, Fiji and Samoa and these islands thought it was all talk and there was no money to make things happen but New Zealand and Australia had the money. So they came in and were founding members of the groups for Pacific leaders.
“But Fiji wants them out leaving the islands with no money which means it will all be just fools talking without any money.”
Tuilaepa pointed out that when cyclones strike the Pacific, N.Z. and Australia are the first countries to give assistance.
“That is why I keep saying that N.Z. and Australia are founding members of the organisation before Banimarama became a Prime Minister,” he continued.
“And even after Bainimarama is no longer the Prime Minister the forum will continue on.”
Following the 47th Pacific Islands Forum that was held in Pohnpei, Federated States on Micronesia from 8 – 10th September, Samoa was announced as the next host for its 48th forum next year.
Tuilaepa said Samoa is more than capable of hosting the meeting considering its ability to host the biggest meeting in the Pacific, the Small Islands Development State.
According to Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat document, on the 47th forum in Pohnpei, Australia and New Zealand has committed appropriate resources for the implementation of P.A.C.E.R. Plus with an initial joint A$7.7million Readiness Package.
The document also noted the withdrawal by Papua New Guinea from P.A.C.E.R. Plus and reservations by Fiji on the current legal text. “Leaders reiterated the need for P.A.C.E.R. Plus to promote regional integration in the Pacific, and to assist the Forum Island Countries to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development,” the document said.
“In that regard, Leaders welcomed the conclusion of negotiations on all fifteen chapters of the P.A.C.E.R Plus text and called on all participants to continue to demonstrate good will and flexibility. Leaders noted that a timetable has been agreed for the conclusion of market access negotiations by the end of October 2016, and for the Agreement to be signed by the end of 2016.
“Leaders noted the withdrawal by Papua New Guinea from P.A.C.E.R. Plus and reservations by Fiji on the current legal text. Leaders welcomed the commitment by Australia and New Zealand to provide appropriate resources for the implementation of P.A.C.E.R. Plus with respect to the development and economic cooperation chapter of the text, and for the broader trade related assistance needs of the F.I.C.s.
“This includes an initial joint A$7.7 million Readiness Package to be available to signatories between signature and entry into force, to assist in undertaking necessary work for the ratification process of P.A.C.E.R. Plus.”
Furthermore, the document also added that Leaders noted that the conclusions and recommendations of the Sustainable Impact Assessment prepared by the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser in consultation with relevant stakeholders, would be used as a basis for ongoing engagement with stakeholders on the possible economic, social and environmental impacts of trade liberalisation under P.A.C.E.R. Plus.