Pacific leaders to meet Chinese President

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has arrived in Port Moresby, P.N.G with other Pacific Island leaders to observe the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit.

He is among leaders of eight Pacific Island states that recognise Beijing diplomatically, and will meet the Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the regional economic summit in Port Moresby.

These countries include P.N.G, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue.

On the agenda will be discussions for further cooperation between China and the Pacific Island states, including China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative which some countries including Samoa and PNG have already signed up to.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang reportedly said the meetings between President Xi and the eight Pacific leaders will be held bilaterally and collectively.

It is the first time for leaders from Pacific Island states to be invited to observe an APEC Leaders Summit—whose 21-member economies account for 60 per cent of global gross domestic product and 47 per cent of global trade. PNG’s hosting of the international economic conference also marks a first for a Pacific Islands nation.  

Speaking to Australia’s SBS Television on Thursday before flying to Port Moresby, Tuilaepa said Samoa and other Pacific nations—by virtue of their location in the region—should be full members of the 21-member economic grouping.

“It is my great hope that we will be full members, because it is that great market in Asia that would become the biggest destination for what we produce, and Asia would become the biggest source market for tourism which fuels most of our economies,” he said. 

In response to growing concerns at China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia and its ally the U.S. are expected to make major announcements through Prime Minister Scott Morrison and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Morrison recently announced the establishment of a development fund that would offer Pacific Island nations over $2 billion for infrastructure projects on top of bolstering military cooperation, while U.S. President Donald Trump last month signed into law a bill to create a $60 billion International Development Finance Corporation, which would oversee strategic investments in developing countries including the Asia Pacific region. 

The official program of the 2018 APEC Leaders Summit in Port Moresby ends tomorrow. 

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