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Intensifying geopolitical engagement currently playing out in the Pacific region means more opportunities for investment and partnerships with an increasing number of partners.
And, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have made it clear that they place great value on open and genuine relationships, and inclusive and enduring partnerships within the region and beyond.
These remarks by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, served as a reminder for Pacific countries, as Samoa hosts the high-level 3rd China-Pacific Countries Economic and Co-operation Development Forum over the weekend.
Dame Meg said, “Collectively the Pacific has much value to offer partners, including ecological resources, culture, and increasing geopolitical and geostrategic value through its stewardship of the world’s largest ocean. Genuine and mutually beneficial partnerships can enable the region to leverage this value as the basis for reducing our dependencies over the longer term.”
This puts the Pacific region in a strong position from which to be both more considered and assertive with its priorities for engagement and individual states are leveraging this increased interest to help pursue their national development aspirations.
Dame Meg used her statement at the high-level gathering in Apia to highlight prospective opportunities for the Pacific region as a collective in its engagement with China, as the Asian economic powerhouse promotes economic opportunities through its Belt & Road Initiative.
In line with Pacific Leaders recognition of the climate change crisis as the greatest threat to the security and well-being of the region, Pacific countries can use China as an ally in the UN climate action process to demand greater ambition to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees and raise commitments under the Paris Agreement, suggested Dame Meg.
“To just meet our Paris targets is no longer enough – we need more ambition. The Forum’s recent Kainaki II Declaration calls for all countries to enhance the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions especially in regard to carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidies and a just transition from fossil fuels.
She said China, as the world’s second largest economy, can be an important ally for the Pacific region in the UNFCCC process by taking a lead in escalating its ambition level.
There are also opportunities for genuine cooperation, sharing and development aimed at reducing the vulnerabilities of the Blue Pacific region.
“In 2018 China accounted for 32% of global investments in renewable energies, and leads the world in installed capacity of hydropower, solar and wind energy. Indeed, our Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific calls for low carbon development and seeks technical and financial support from development partners to help Pacific Island Countries.
Another opportunity for investing in Pacific resilience is through the Pacific Resilience Facility, which fills a gap in resilient development in the region by enabling investments in small scale community initiatives.
“This can have a tremendous impact amongst grassroots communities in the Pacific by strengthening their preparedness for climatic events in the future.
In the region, Dame Meg said she has been encouraged by examples of joint ventures between Chinese investors and Pacific Island governments and companies which have ensured majority ownership remains with the Pacific and provided for valuable knowledge sharing and technology transfers.
“For example, Kiribati has joint ventures with Chinese companies for both its tuna processing plant and purse seine fleet. In both instances, the majority stake sits with the Government of Kiribati. This is enabling Kiribati to begin enhancing its economic autonomy and resilience.
“Integral to this, is the opportunity to forge partnerships and relationships that will help address the challenges we face in the Pacific; the opportunity to build on our collective Blue Pacific identity to leverage an active and equal footing in shaping the priorities for a mutually beneficial partnership with our partners, including China, said Dame Meg.
The Forum Secretary General see potential investment and economic opportunity in China as the fastest growing emerging tourism market globally and for the Pacific.
“The Pacific’s unique cultures and environmental beauty provide China with one of world’s most sought-after tourist destinations right on its doorstep. There remains further potential to enhance connectivity across tourist destinations and create a truly Blue Pacific experience for Chinese tourists.
Dame Meg said as the Pacific region looks forward to 2050, ensuring strong and genuine partnerships will be key to enabling a secure and prosperous future for the Blue Pacific.
“We are not ignorant to the heightened evolution of partnership relationships in the Pacific region and the advantages and disadvantages these offer. As we work together to forge stronger relationships, we must ensure that these partnerships effectively deliver for our people in a fair and efficient manner that is built on mutual trust and respect, said Dame Meg.
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