White paper

AUSTRALIA is committed to strong and productive relations with Fiji.

This commitment is contained in government’s new Foreign Policy White Paper unveiled in Canberra on Thursday.

“We recognise Fiji’s economic potential and its capacity to serve as a regional hub for business, tourism, security co-operation and humanitarian and disaster response co-ordination,” said the White Paper.

It’s the first time that Australia’s foreign policy has singled out a number of Pacific countries including Fiji that it will “work with and continue to support” in the coming years.

Solomon Islands, another Melanesian country, will also be in Australia’s foreign policy radar, particularly when it paid a high price of $A2.6 billion ($F4.2b) over 10 years under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to bring stability to the nation.

“We will work with Solomon Islands to help ensure that the transition from RAMSI protects the stability of the country.”

Australia assured its support for economic growth and governance will remain an important focus of its bilateral relations.

In Vanuatu, support for recovery from Tropical Cyclone Pam to build resilience and growth will remain Australia’s priority.

For Polynesia, which includes Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tokelau and Tuvalu — Australia will assist with economic and social development through support for reform programs and assistance towards the export sector.

Specifically for Tonga and Samoa, the Australian Government will work with them through joint security operations and exercises.

At the regional level, Australia has committed to supporting valuable services provided by key regional organisations.

“Australia will continue to strongly support the Pacific Islands Forum, the pre-eminent regional organisation, through which leaders set regional priorities.

“We will support organisations in the region that co-ordinate management of natural resources such as fisheries or provide essential scientific and technical services,” said the White Paper.

Economic growth, security, fisheries and building more resilient communities for smaller island states will be focus of Australia’s engagements with these small and vulnerable nations in the Pacific.

Australia is providing $A300 million ($F480m) over four years to provide climate science and data as its contribution to help low lying atolls response to climate change.

In addition, Australia will assist vulnerable countries in the Pacific to access resources from the Green Climate Fund, to which Australia has contributed $A200m ($F320m).

The White Paper’s fundamental objectives are to:

* Work to keep our Indo-Pacific region secure, open and prosperous;

* Maximise opportunities for Australian businesses and workers by fighting protectionism, and implementing policies that help Australians take advantage of the benefits of an open, competitive economy;

* Ensure Australians remain safe, secure and free in the face of threats like terrorism;

* Promote a world with fair rules and strong cooperation to ensure the rights of all states are respected; and;

* Increase support for a more stable and prosperous Pacific;

n To achieve these objectives, the Government will:

* Increase our efforts to ensure we remain a leading partner for Southeast Asia, including through an ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in 2018, an increase in our investments in regional maritime security capacity-building, and stronger bilateral ties (for example, our new strategic partnership with Vietnam);

* Extend our “step up” in the Pacific on economic and security issues, including by establishing with our Pacific partners a new Australian Pacific Security College to deliver security and law enforcement training at the leadership level;

* Establish a new civilian deployment programme, Australia Assists, which will deploy more than 100 humanitarian specialists each year to countries and communities affected by disasters;

* Extend our network of FTAs to cover more partners, including to ensure that by 2020 we have FTAs with countries that account for 80 per cent of our trade (currently 64 per cent);

* Implement a non-tariff measures strategy to better identify these barriers to trade for Australian businesses and respond to them; and

* Develop a stronger “nation brand” to market our commercial, educational and cultural credentials in a competitive global market.

“Australia has considerable national strengths. We have a flexible, competitive and growing economy, formidable defence and national security capabilities, including cyber, a cohesive and resilient society built on our values of freedom, equality and the rule of law.

“We are a regional power with global influence,” said Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop.

With this White Paper, the Government will build on these strengths to pursue our objectives with confidence, ambition and purpose for the benefit of all Australians.

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