Secretary General commends China's contribution
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, says China is most welcome to contribute in the development of forum member countries, given its economic importance in the region.
Dame Meg was speaking to journalists ahead of the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting underway in Fiji this week.
Pacific Note reports that Dame Meg expressed concerns about the impact of outside powers, but never indicated any particular country.
Over the past decade, Beijing has boosted its presence in the region, and for Dame Meg this is not to be seen as a barrier against other Pacific allies.
Six member countries of the Forum still maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan - Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Nauru have called on the Forum to recognise Taiwan and China as equals at its meetings, says Pacific Note.
“What I am most anxious about in the region is what has happened with the influence of certain governments trying to focus on some countries, not other countries. Influencing some countries and not thinking. Dividing the collection,” she said.
Dame Meg said the Pacific had a long and proud history of working together for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity, “Holding the collective together is a big challenge,” Dame Meg said.
As a result of Beijing’s “One China’ Policy”, Taiwan is not able to join other development partners at their annual meeting with Pacific leaders.
Instead, Taiwan holds a separate meeting for the six countries it has diplomatic ties with. Dame Meg raised the possibility of a new way of working with China, according to Pacific Note.
She said at the A.P.E.C. meeting in Papua New Guinea last year China, Chinese Hong Kong and Taipei (Taiwan) were able to sit alongside each other in discussions with A.P.E.C. member nations - because A.P.E.C. is an economic forum.
Dame Meg suggested this model might work in the Pacific.
“China is a development partner of the Forum so when we have the Pacific Island leaders meeting, China is part of the discussions at the Forum, but in the Forum you’ve got six countries that recognise Taiwan and the others that recognise China.
“So if we are going to have a discussion, let’s have it as economies not a political relationship but an economic relationship,” Dame Taylor said.
China is ahead of New Zealand and Japan as the second largest aid donor to Pacific Island nations, but behind Australia, says University of the South Pacific Head of School and Director, Politics and International Affairs Sandra Tarte.