Tuvalu’s new Government is to review its controversial defence and climate change agreement with Australia – referring to concerns about the absence of transparency and a need to safeguard its sovereignty.

Prime Minister Feleti Teo spoke to the nation this morning about his Government’s priorities, among them the Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union.

It’s a bilateral treaty which was kept secret until its signing in November, between then-Prime Minister Kausea Natano and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The agreement gave Tuvalu $16.9 million (US$11 million) for climate change adaption and a mobility pathway to Australia for up to 280 people a year but has been widely criticised for the defence and security aspects which allows Australian military personnel to operate in Tuvalu.

In terms of security and defence it also forbids Tuvalu from entering any partnership or engaging with anyone else without Australia’s approval. That includes infrastructure projects like ports.

In his speech to the nation Teo said while it supports the broad principles of the Treaty it “acknowledges the absence of transparency and consultations in socialising and informing the public in Tuvalu of such an important and ground-breaking initiative”.

He said that it intends to work with the Australian Government towards a “workable arrangement” in advancing the relationship “in particular safeguarding the integrity of the sovereignty of Tuvalu”.

The news will come as a devastating blow to Australia. Just this week Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said Australia was “confident” that the Treaty would be ratified”, confident because one of the three Tuvaluans who were involved in its early stages was the new Prime Minister.

However, Teo supported by his new cabinet, has made it clear there are sovereignty and transparency issues which need to be addressed.
It was also announced that Tuvalu – one of only three countries in the Pacific which are not aligned with China – will keep its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.