China's 'Belt and Road' key to Pacific's plan of action

The implementation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is key to progressing a “program of action” by the 10 Pacific Island countries, that recently attended the 3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in Samoa.

The BRI, which is the Chinese government’s global development strategy, was formally signed off by President Xi Jinping and Pacific leaders, on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) in November last year.

Heads of government and the representatives of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu signed another agreement titled “China-Pacific Island Countries Program of Action on Economic Development and Cooperation” when they met with China’s Vice Premier Hu Chunhua in Apia in a one-day summit on October 21.

The program of action document was not made available to the media and the public at the conclusion of the conference. However, delegates told the Samoa Observer on the condition of anonymity that the program of action document was signed and then given to all signatory nations including Samoa. 

Under the provisions of the program of action, the 10 Pacific Island states and China have agreed that they will use the BRI to drive cooperation in the areas of: intergovernmental systems; trade; investment; infrastructure; tourism and transportation; agriculture; finance; environmental protection and climate change; capacity building; and local government (channelled through China’s Guangdong province).

“The countries will insure that economic development and cooperation between China and Pacific Island Countries will be in accordance with the relevant international and domestic laws and national policies of each country, and do not hinder the process of regional integration or the countries’ efforts to meet their obligations under international treaties,” reads the program of action document.

“Bearing in mind the Belt and Road Initiative, the countries appreciate the positive progress in advancing mutually-beneficial economic and trade cooperation. Recognising the diverse characteristics of the countries in terms of their economic development, the countries are willing to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation that is mutually beneficial for the people of the countries, following the principles of extensive consultation and joint contribution.”

The program of action document – under the provision on cooperation in finance – appealed for support for “Chinese-invested banks” in the region.

“Subject to the law and regulations of each country, the countries support Chinese-invested banks in operating financial business and innovative financial products in Pacific Island Countries and vice versa.” 

Pacific Island nations have also been asked to “encourage enterprises to actively explore cooperation” on engineering procurement construction, public-private partnership and investment-construction-operation integration. 

In terms of environment protection and climate change, the program of action document stated that China is committed to in depth exchanges and practical cooperation with Pacific Island states. 

“Under the framework of South-South cooperation on climate change, China is committed to in depth exchanges and practical cooperation with Pacific Island countries, including implementing donation projects and hosting training sessions with a view to increasing Pacific Island countries capabilities to mitigate, adapt and respond to climate change."

The 4th China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum will be held in China, where China and the 10 Pacific nations agreed they will do an evaluation on the outcomes of the 2019 summit. 

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