Samoan Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, is scheduled to meet her New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, this week.
After attending a special meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji last week, Mata’afa is returning to New Zealand ahead of the nation’s first bilateral engagement since Fiame became the Prime Minister.
The first official meeting between Mata’afa as Prime Minister and Ardern was confirmed by the New Zealand Prime Minister, who was in Australia as the first foreign leader to meet Australia’s new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed during her post-Cabinet press conference that she would meet Australia and Samoa’s Prime ministers,”.
Mata’afa’s trip to New Zealand, marking her first bilateral visit as Samoa’s prime minister, comes as Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta face questions about this country’s connections with other Pacific nations.
It was not possible to obtain an official programme for Mata’afa’s New Zealand visit from the Government.
But according to Ardern, she said she hoped to discuss the major challenges facing the Pacific, such as stability and climate change.
“Mata’afa will arrive in the country on 14 June for a trip marking the 60th anniversary of Sāmoa’s independence. She will meet with Ardern and other ministers and visit Auckland, Wellington and Hawke’s Bay.”
The Spinoff highlighted Ardern’s thoughts on the significant year for Samoa and the treaty of friendship between the two countries.
“This is a significant year for Sāmoa as it celebrates 60 years of independence on June 1, and 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Samoa and Aotearoa New Zealand on 01 August ,” said Ardern.
“The Treaty underpins our relationship and pledges that both countries work together to promote the welfare of the people of Sāmoa.”
The article also mentioned that the meeting between Ardern and Mata’afa comes at a crucial time for Pacific diplomacy, with tensions growing over China’s increased influence in the region.
Samoa’s own stance was articulated by the Prime Minister Mata’afa when she was asked amidst the celebration of the 60 years anniversary of the nation, by the local media for her views on a proposed regional agreement that was put forward by Beijing.
“From observation the powerful nations want our views as the region yet approaches the islands individually preventing the opportunity for the Pacific to consult together,” Mata’afa said.
“We have very small opportunities where we have the advantage and our advantage is when our views are combined together to represent the Pacific,” she said.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS