U.K. not in “aid race” with China, says Clarke
The establishment of a United Kingdom (U.K.) Mission in Samoa does not signal the start of an “aid race” with other development partners, says U.K. High Commissioner to Samoa, Laura Clarke.
Ms. Clarke recently toured Apia ahead of the handing over of the role to a diplomatic colleague who will be based in Samoa.
Ms. Clarke is also the High Commissioner to New Zealand and is based in Wellington.
Responding to questions on whether the U.K. is throwing her hat in the ring for influence in the Pacific over China amidst international concern, Ms. Clarke said no.
“I think it’s all to the good that there are multiple partners for Samoa to work with but I would not characterise it as an aids race,” she said.
“China has its own way of doing aid, and it has vast resources and they have a much bigger presence.”
Ms. Clarke said it is time the existing relationship of the U.K. was strengthened and for further partnership opportunities to be developed.
Furthermore, the U.K. will be careful not to duplicate development work already happening, but rather to work where help is needed.
But she added it is the nature of foreign policy and diplomacy for countries to want to engage and influence other nations.
“Certainly, geopolitics are alive and well in the Pacific,” Ms. Clarke said.
“There are many areas where we work together and have a shared interest, like with climate change, and I think it’s important that countries, particularly developing countries always have options.”
The approach of the U.K. to aid and development, as it has been under the European Union, will be to focus on sustainability and capacity building rather than infrastructure, with the diplomat calling it a “different approach”.
“We generally do programmes that build capacity, build expertise, technical assistance, that sort of thing."
“We are also trying to future proof it. We don’t want a situation where you have to keep providing aid, you want to capacity build with the end goal being self-sufficiency,” she added.
Ms. Clarke said development should ensure loans and debt agreements are sustainable.