Foreign relations of Fiji
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
Fiji has experienced many coups recently, in 1987, 2000, and 2006. Fiji has been suspended various times from the Commonwealth of Nations, a grouping of mostly former British colonies. It was readmitted to the Commonwealth in December 2001, following the parliamentary election held to restore democracy in September that year, and has been suspended again because of the 2006 coup, but has been readmitted a second time after the 2014 election. Other Pacific Island governments have generally been sympathetic to Fiji's internal political problems and have declined to take public positions.
Fiji became the 127th member of the United Nations on 13 October 1970, and participates actively in the organization. Fiji's contributions to UN peacekeeping are unique for a nation of its size. A nation with a population of less than one million, it maintains nearly 1,000 soldiers overseas in UN peacekeeping missions, mainly in the Middle East.
Since Fiji's independence, the country has been a leader in the South Pacific region, and has played a leading role in the formation of the South Pacific Forum. Fiji has championed causes of common interest to Pacific Island countries.
Since 2005, Fiji has become embroiled in a number of disagreements with other countries, including Australia, China, New Zealand, South Korea, the United States, and Vanuatu.
The country's foreign relations and diplomatic missions are maintained by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Diplomatic relations list
List of countries which have established diplomatic relations with Fiji:
- Kiribati – Established, date unknown
- Nauru – Established, date unknown
- Niue – Established, date unknown
- Solomon Islands – Established, date unknown
- Timor-Leste – Established, date unknown, before 2013
- Vanuatu – Established, date unknown
- Tonga – Established, date unknown
- Pakistan – 8 March 1970
- Israel – August 1970
- Australia – 10 October 1970
- Canada – 10 October 1970
- France – 10 October 1970
- India – 10 October 1970
- New Zealand – 10 October 1970
- United Kingdom – 10 October 1970
- Japan – 15 October 1970
- Luxembourg – January 1971
- United States – 22 July 1971
- Singapore – 30 November 1971
- Netherlands – February 1972
- Cuba – 1 September 1972
- Belgium – September 1972
- Sri Lanka – September 1972
- Chile – 10 October 1972
- Italy – 13 October 1972
- Thailand – December 1972
- Egypt – 1972
- Mali – 10 April 1973
- Germany – 1 August 1973
- Philippines – 18 December 1973
- Russia – 30 January 1994
- Indonesia – 1974
- Malaysia – 1974
- Samoa – 10 November 1974
- North Korea – 14 April 1975
- Argentina – 30 April 1975
- Senegal – 14 May 1975
- Romania – 15 August 1975
- Bahamas – 1 September 1975
- Mexico – 1 September 1975
- Papua New Guinea – 16 September 1975
- China – 5 November 1975
- Turkey – 17 November 1975
- Mongolia – 15 March 1976
- Spain – 10 December 1976
- Norway – 18 January 1977
- Portugal – 21 February 1977
- Finland – 1 December 1977
- Tuvalu – 1977
- Greece – 24 February 1978
- Holy See – 12 September 1978
- Sweden – 3 April 1979
- Jamaica – 11 December 1979
- Belize – 20 October 1981
- Venezuela – 1983
- Nepal – 12 June 1986
- Seychelles – 4 December 1986
- Colombia – 10 September 1987
- Marshall Islands – 22 January 1988
- Maldives – 15 March 1988
- Federated States of Micronesia – 27 May 1989
- Switzerland – 1989
- Austria – 22 May 1992
- Vietnam – 14 May 1993
- South Africa – 7 November 1994
- Slovakia – 8 July 1996
- Czech Republic – 17 July 1996
- Uruguay – 17 September 1996
- Slovenia – 29 November 1996
- Croatia – 14 July 1997
- Denmark – 1 December 1997
- Cook Islands – 14 July 1998
- Republic of Ireland – 19 February 2002
- Swaziland – 14 March 2002
- Bangladesh – 11 March 2003
- Mauritius – 2 September 2003
- Kuwait – 28 September 2005
- Brazil – 16 February 2006
- Peru – 2006
- South Korea – 17 September 2007
- Dominican Republic – 27 September 2007
- Iceland – 8 February 2008
- Latvia – 7 March 2008
- Estonia – 14 July 2008
- North Macedonia – 15 March 2010
- United Arab Emirates – 17 March 2010
- Azerbaijan – 18 March 2010
- Georgia – 29 March 2010
- Eritrea – 12 April 2010
- Bosnia and Herzegovina – 20 April 2010
- Myanmar – 10 May 2010
- Belarus – 26 May 2010
- Cambodia – 27 May 2010
- Algeria – 2 June 2010
- Afghanistan – 4 June 2010
- Armenia – 7 June 2010
- Morocco – 15 June 2010
- Montenegro – 15 June 2010
- Uzbekistan – 16 June 2010
- Sudan – 19 June 2010
- Albania – 23 June 2010
- Oman – 12 July 2010
- Tajikistan – 20 July 2010
- Laos – 27 August 2010
- Djibouti – 16 September 2010
- Kenya – 21 September 2010
- Bahrain – 25 September 2010
- Qatar – 20 October 2010
- Lebanon – 29 October 2010
- Moldova – 7 December 2010
- Paraguay – 22 December 2010
- Syria – 23 December 2010
- Ethiopia – 6 January 2011
- Guinea – 28 January 2011
- Hungary – 7 March 2011
- Brunei – 25 April 2011
- Republic of the Congo – 11 May 2011
- Angola – 18 May 2011
- Togo – 31 May 2011
- Malawi – 25 June 2011
- Botswana – 28 June 2011
- Benin – 16 September 2011
- Equatorial Guinea – 6 October 2011
- Jordan – 15 November 2011
- Bhutan – 18 November 2011
- Mauritania – 19 November 2011
- Suriname – 21 November 2011
- Cape Verde – 2 April 2012
- Kazakhstan – 6 June 2012
- Iran – 30 August 2012
- Ghana – 12 October 2012
- Haiti – 16 October 2012
- Nicaragua – 21 September 2012
- South Sudan – 25 September 2012
- Panama – 9 November 2012
- Liberia – 15 November 2012
- Mozambique – 6 December 2012
- Central African Republic – 22 January 2013
- Ecuador – 12 February 2013
- Kosovo – 13 February 2013
- Cyprus – 15 March 2013
- San Marino – 15 March 2013
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – 15 April 2013
- Costa Rica – 4 August 2013
- Nigeria – Established before 2013, date unknown
- Guatemala – 13 September 2013
- Uganda – 16 September 2013
- Ukraine – 23 September 2013
- Andorra – 27 September 2013
- Serbia – 25 October 2013
- Comoros – 7 November 2013
- Monaco – 13 November 2013
- Burkina Faso – 22 November 2013
- Bolivia – 9 January 2014
- Lithuania – 24 January 2014
- Kyrgyzstan – 14 February 2014
- Dominica – 21 March 2014
- Ivory Coast – 4 April 2014
- Somalia – 10 April 2014
- Turkmenistan – 2 May 2014
- Saint Kitts and Nevis – 16 May 2014
- Yemen – 6 June 2014
- Liechtenstein – 30 June 2014
- Guinea-Bissau – 7 July 2014
- Poland – 11 July 2014
- Iraq – 12 August 2014
- Niger – 9 September 2014
- Gambia – 24 October 2014
- Guyana – 8 December 2014
- Malta – 11 December 2014
- Sierra Leone – 6 February 2015
- Antigua and Barbuda – 20 February 2015
- El Salvador – 30 February 2015
- Burundi – 20 March 2015
- Bulgaria – 24 March 2015
- Palau – 2 April 2015
- Grenada – 23 June 2015
- Chad – 4 August 2015
- Saudi Arabia – 4 August 2015
- Honduras – 26 September 2015
- Saint Lucia – 27 January 2016
- Trinidad and Tobago – 18 March 2016
- Tanzania – 26 May 2016
- Barbados – 19 June 2017
|Country||Formal Relations Began||-|
|Australia||10 October 1970||See Australia–Fiji relations
On 13 April 2005, Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, rejected criticism from Australia and some other countries over the prosecution and imprisonment of two foreigners charged with committing homosexual acts, which are illegal in Fiji, and said that other countries needed to respect Fiji's independence. Qarase said that as member of the United Nations, Fiji was as entitled as any other country to make its own laws as it saw fit.
The Australian Government took a more measured position than its New Zealand counterpart over the controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Unity Bill being debated in the Fijian Parliament. Susan Boyd, a former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, strongly criticized the legislation, but Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that it is an "internal matter" and that Australia does not want to get involved. He did, however, condemn recent threats from the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to declare martial law and arrest members of the present government if the bill is passed. The Australian High Commission in Suva told Bainimarama that his threats are not "the proper role for the military in a democracy."
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer visited Fiji for two days of talks, from 28 to 30 September 2005. Downer met government ministers and officials, Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, and military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama. The talks covered the controversial Unity Bill, as well as the future of Fiji's preferential trade access to the Australian market, which the Fijian Government regards as a priority. Downer said that he intended to elaborate further on Australian Prime Minister John Howard's promise of a seven-year extension of the SPARTECA–TCF scheme, which assists Fiji's textile, clothing, and footwear industry.
Foreign Minister Tavola expressed grave concern on 7 February 2006, about a proposed regional trade agreement (RTA) between Australia and China, saying that Fiji's exports to Australia would be unable to compete with Chinese products. For that reason, Fiji was persisting in its efforts to persuade Australia to renew the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation – Textile Clothing Footwear (SPARTECA–TCF) scheme, to improve the competitiveness of Fijian exports, the Fiji Live news service reported.
The Fiji Times reported on 14 September 2006, that Prime Ministers Qarase and Howard had discussed possible Australian assistance for the reform of Fiji's sugar industry, with Howard reported receptive to giving aid. Qarase said that he had asked Australia to provide two or three experts to help with the establishment of the proposed Fiji Research Sugar Institute.
Regarding the coup, Australia's foreign minister at the time, Alexander Downer, said that the military were "slowly trying to take control" and pressured the PM to resign. It was reported that in 2006 Fiji's Prime Minister Qarase asked Australia's Prime Minister John Howard for military assistance should a coup take place, but Howard declined.
2009 events; coup and diplomatic rift
On 3 November 2009 Fiji ordered the diplomatic envoys of Australia to leave Fiji within 24 hours. The expulsion of the diplomats followed accusations by leader of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, that Australia and New Zealand were interfering in Fiji's internal affairs and "wage a negative campaign against the government and people of Fiji". In particular Bainimarama says that the two countries were exerting pressure on Sri Lankan judges, brought in by Bainimarama to replace the uncooperative local judiciary, not to travel to the country and refusing to grant them transit visas. The Australian government denied this and stated that it only advised the judges that once they took up office in Fiji they would be subject to an existing travel ban in place against Fijian officials. Australia's senior diplomat in Fiji was also expelled in the 2006 coup. Fiji announced its withdrawal of their high commissioner from Australia.
Australia and New Zealand responded on 4 November 2009, expelling Fiji's diplomats from both those countries. Stephen Smith, Australian Foreign Minister, rejected any accusations of meddling in Fiji's affairs and said that he was "deeply disappointed" by Fiji's actions. The then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that he would maintain his tough stance against Fiji in order to prevent a "coup culture" spreading around the Pacific.
|Brazil||16 February 2006||Fiji Live reported on 23 February 2006 that Fiji's United Nations ambassador Isikia Savua and his Brazilian counterpart Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg had recently signed a communiqué to establish diplomatic relations. Savua expressed the hope that Fiji's bio-fuels industry could benefit from Brazilian technology.
|Chile||10 October 1972||
|China||5 November 1975||See China–Fiji relations
A diplomatic row with China erupted on 5 May 2005, when President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan arrived for a private visit and was welcomed at a private function at Suva's Sheraton Resort by Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Ratu Ovini Bokini (Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs), Senate President Taito Waqavakatoga and several other Senators and MPs, and several judges including Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki. Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola asserted that those who attended the welcoming ceremony did so "of their own accord," not as government representatives, and that Prime Minister Qarase's presence in the same hotel where President Chen was staying was purely "coincidental." Chinese ambassador Cai Jin Biao rejected this explanation, and said that the visit was a violation of the One China Policy, to which Fiji had agreed when diplomatic relations were established in 1975, which would "sabotage relations between China and Fiji." He charged that Prime Minister Qarase and Foreign Minister Tavola had known of the upcoming visit for months. The embassy issued a further statement on 7 May, demanding that Fiji discontinue any effort to establish a dialogue with Taiwan.
The row escalated when, on 16 May, Health Minister Solomone Naivalu voted in support of Taiwan's bid to gain observer status at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. Naivalu had apparently done so on his own initiative, contrary to a government briefing, sparking a major public disagreement between himself and Foreign Minister Tavola. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), was dispatched to Fiji and met Prime Minister Qarase during a brief stopover on 21–22 May, a move that Tavola said was not coincidental. He said that Fiji could not afford to lose China, and that the government would ensure that "careless incidences" like Naivalu's vote in Geneva would not recur. Naivalu responded by saying that his vote was nothing new: "We always support Taiwan to get observer status every year," he said.
On 10 December 2005, The New Zealand Herald quoted Tavola as saying that Fiji would have to find a way to resolve a stand-off between the PRC and Taiwan, over membership of the Suva-based Council of South Pacific Tourism Organisation; China was resisting Taiwanese attempts to join the organization on an equal basis. "If China had its way it would not want Taiwan on that. So we have to resolve the situation amicably and are looking at how both countries can be represented there," Tavola said.
In defence of the earlier incident over the Taiwanese President's visit, Tavola said that it was the Pacific way to welcome people. "Even when considering Taiwan as a province of China, he went on, the President of a province is a man of high profile, so when he comes there is an urge to extend hospitality." It did not signify any modification to Fiji's adherence to the One China policy, he had explained to the Chinese ambassador.
China has invested in a number of major projects in Fiji. These include the Suva sports stadium, built for the South Pacific Games of 2003.
On 14 December 2005, Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama began an official visit to China, at the invitation of the People's Liberation Army. He reaffirmed Fiji's support for the One China policy.
It was announced on 24 January 2006 that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao would visit Fiji that April to open the China-Pacific Islands Countries Economic Development & Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference 2006 at Sofitel Fiji Resort in Nadi, a conference of economic and trade ministers from Pacific Island countries. Six prime ministers from neighbouring countries are expected to participate, according to a Fiji Times report on 23 February. His visit to Fiji will be the first by a senior Chinese Government official.
In an interview with PACNEWS on 1 February 2006, Jeremaia Waqanisau, Fiji's ambassador to Beijing, made a stinging attack on the efficiency of the Fijian civil service, saying that it negatively affected Fiji's ability to present itself to China. Cabinet ministers visited China without the Fijian embassy being informed, he complained. Certain civil servants were extremely passive in their dealings with China, he said. Another factor inhibiting Chinese investment was the instability caused by friction between the government and the military, he surmised, and the Fijian embassy in Beijing was continually engaged in damage control.
|Cuba||1 September 1972||
Fiji's ambassador to the United Nations, Berenado Vunibobo, stated in 2008 that his country could seek closer relations with Cuba, and in particular medical assistance, following a decline in Fiji's relations with New Zealand. Fiji's foreign minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau took part in the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting in Havana in September 2008.
|Denmark||Fiji is represented in Denmark, through its embassy in London, United Kingdom, with a consulate in Copenhagen. Denmark is represented in Fiji, through its embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Denmark has one consulate in Suva, Fiji.|
|European Union||The European Union announced on 3 November 2005 that it would increase its assistance to Fijian schools from 2006 onwards. The assistance would cover infrastructure and building, as well as supplying schools with running water and telephone services.|
|France||10 October 1970||See Fiji–France relations
Relations between France and Fiji are currently strained, due to France's condemnation of the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. Previously, Franco-Fiji bilateral relations had primarily been centred on military cooperation, with France assisting Fiji in surveiling its maritime zone, and on development aid. French military assistance was suspended after the coup.
French aid to Fiji includes the providing of equipment for poor and isolated areas, and assistance in the development of renewable energy. France also provides Fiji with translations into English of French scientific documents pertaining to the Pacific area. France promotes French culture and the French language in Fiji through the presence of the Alliance Française and by encouraging the teaching of French in schools and at the University of the South Pacific.
|India||See Fiji–India relations
Fiji's relationship with India is often seen by observers against the backdrop of the sometimes tense relations between its indigenous people and the 38 percent of the population who are of Indian descent. A major diplomatic event for Fiji in 2005 occurred from 8 to 15 October, when Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola made an official visit to India.
|Israel||August 1970||See Fiji–Israel relations
Relations with Israel have generally been cordial, with Fiji usually taking positions sympathetic to Israel in United Nations resolutions. Relations were strained in July 2006, however, when three Israelis, who arrived in Fiji on the 13th, were arrested and deported. Amit Ronen, Eldar Avracohen, and Nimrod Lahav were detained in a jail cell at Nadi Airport for six hours and deported to Australia the next day, for alleged mistreatment of Palestinians by Israel.
|Japan||See Fiji-Japan relations||
|Kosovo||13 February 2013|
|Malaysia||1977||See Fiji–Malaysia relations|
|Mexico||31 August 1975||See Fiji–Mexico relations|
|New Zealand||10 October 1970||See Fiji–New Zealand relations
On 10 June 2005, Foreign Minister Tavola signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with his New Zealand counterpart, Phil Goff, aimed at fostering cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that New Zealand would double its annual aid to Fiji, from NZ$4 million to NZ$8 million. Much of this aid, the Fijian Government revealed, would be used for poverty alleviation and squatter resettlement.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters (who replaced Goff in late 2005) flew into Fiji on 8 February 2006, for three days of talks with Fijian Government officials. He met Prime Minister Qarase, Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola, and military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama on the first day of his visit; meetings with Foreign Minister Tavola and House of Representatives Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau were held later. The meeting with Bainimarama attracted some media attention; Bainimarama said that the meeting had been approved by Prime Minister Qarase and that there was nothing underhanded about it.
The New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters described the 2006 coup as a "creeping siege on democratic institutions". Helen Clark said that the Fijian constitution only allowed the president to request the dissolving of parliament if the prime minister no longer had the confidence of the parliament and that this was clearly not the case. The New Zealand Government has also stated those taking part in the coup will be banned from entry to New Zealand, and that military ties, aid and sporting contacts will be cut. Helen Clark has said in the NZ Herald that she would consider sanctions against Fiji.
On 3 November 2009, Fiji ordered the diplomatic envoys of New Zealand to leave Fiji within 24 hours. The expulsion of the diplomats followed accusations by leader of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, that Australia and New Zealand were interfering in Fiji's internal affairs and attempting to "wage a negative campaign against the government and people of Fiji". In particular Bainimarama says that the two countries were exerting pressure on Sri Lankan judges, brought in by Bainimarama to replace the uncooperative local judiciary, not to travel to the country and refusing to grant them transit visas. New Zealand's top diplomat in Fiji at the time was Todd Cleaver.
New Zealand returned the favour on 4 November when it expelled Fiji's acting head of mission, Kuliniasi Seru Savou, from the country. New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said that "Diplomatic relations with Fiji are roughly the same they have been for the last couple of years unfortunately" and that "we have had our ups and downs and unfortunately today they are down". The event marked the third time that New Zealand's top diplomat in Fiji has been expelled since the 2006 coup.
|Papua New Guinea||1975||
Relations between Fiji and Papua New Guinea became strained in November 2005, in the wake of revelations that a number of Fijian citizens, possibly mercenaries, had entered Papua New Guinea illegally and were involved in arming and training a separatist militia on the island of Bougainville.
On a separate matter, PNG Trade and Industry Minister Paul Tiensten was quoted in Fiji Village on 21 February 2006 as saying that sanctions against Fiji were being considered, following a Fijian refusal of a PNG kava shipment and an earlier rejection of corned beef shipped from PNG.
|Russia||30 January 1974||See Fiji–Russia relations
|Samoa||10 November 1974||
Fiji has recently appointed its first High Commissioner to Samoa.
|Solomon Islands||See Fiji–Solomon Islands relations
Diplomatic relations are currently cordial, although the Solomon Islands government has aligned itself with other countries in the region to urge Fiji interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to restore democracy in Fiji. Fiji and the Solomon Islands are both located in Melanesia, and are both members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. They also participate in other regional organisations including the Pacific Islands Forum. In August 2008, it was announced that the Solomon Islands intended to open a High Commission in Suva, and in December the government of Fiji announced that it had "formally endorsed the establishment of a Resident Diplomatic Mission in Suva by the Government of the Solomon Islands". Fiji's High Commission to Papua New Guinea is accredited to the Solomon Islands. In July 2014, a row between the two nations erupted over air services which resulted in both nations airlines being prevented to fly over the other. But both nations reached an agreement in early January 2015 to lift the suspension of their Air Services Agreement, allowing Fiji Airways and Solomon Airlines to fly between the two countries. Fiji's Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said both airlines are entitled to operate three flights per week. Fiji Airways Chief executive Stefan Pichler has indicated they will begin the flights in March however Solomon Airlines has yet to confirm when they will begin their flights.
|South Africa||2006||Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola announced on 15 February 2006 that South Africa would be the first African country to establish a diplomatic mission in Fiji. Diplomatic relations would open up new opportunities for trade and investment, Tavola said. On 27 February, it was announced that South Africa would be opening a High Commission in Fiji. In 2016, Fiji closed its High Commission in Pretoria.|
|South Korea||1970||See Fiji–South Korea relations
The Republic of the Fiji Islands and the Republic of Korea established official diplomatic relations in 1970, when Fiji became independent. There is a South Korean embassy in Suva and a Fijian embassy in Seoul. Relations between the two countries are currently friendly, and are being strengthened at the initiative of the Fijian authorities.
|Spain||10 December 1976||See Fiji–Spain relations
|Tonga||See Fiji–Tonga relations
It was reported on 2 November 2005 that a territorial dispute was looming between Fiji and Tonga over a reef lying to the south of both countries. The people of Ono-i-Lau in the Lau Islands archipelago claim that Minerva Reef is part of their traditional fishing ground. Attorney General Qoriniasi Bale told the Lau Provincial Council that the government had a team of experts preparing a case to be taken to the United Nations International Seabed Authority, which is based in Jamaica. The reef has also been claimed by Tonga since 1972, and Tonga's Surveyor General, Tevita Malolo, told Radio New Zealand that Fiji had never contested Tonga's claim until now.
|Tuvalu||See Fiji–Tuvalu relations
|United Kingdom||10 October 1970||Foreign Minister Tavola expressed concern on 11 July about moves by the British government to reduce its presence in the Pacific region. "We were not happy with that and on occasions, informed them of the folly of their decision to downsize their presence in the Pacific," Tavola said. Britain has already closed its consulate in Kiribati and subsequently closed its missions in Tonga 2005 and Vanuatu in 2006. Britain has also withdrawn from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, a regional organization of which it was a founding member and a major donor.
Tavola said the British withdrawal could create a power vacuum which others could exploit. A new Cold War era could come to the Pacific region, he said, with rivalries between China and Taiwan, as well as between China and Japan.
|United States||22 July 1971||See Fiji–United States relations
Before the 2006 coup, the US government was highly critical of Fiji, causing tensions between the two countries.
Relations are currently poor, due to the United States' opposition to Fiji's unelected government which took power after the coup d'état in December 2006 and did not allow elections until September 2014.
On 11 March 2005, Vanuatu imposed a ban in biscuit imports, ostensibly to protect its own biscuit manufacturing industry, giving a monopoly on the business to the Espiritu Santo-based Wong Sze Sing store. The ban was the second in a year. Bread and breakfast cereals produced by Flour Mills of Fiji (FMF) were the worst-hit; the company claimed to be losing F$2 million annually.
Fiji retaliated on 13 June with a threat to impose a total commercial embargo on Vanuatu. Major income-earners for Vanuatu targeted by the Fijian government include Vanuatu kava, valued at almost US$3.2 million, and Air Vanuatu flights (US$8 million).
On 29 June, Foreign Minister Tavola said that Fiji was "running out of patience" and that he was writing to the government of Vanuatu in what he called a "final gesture of friendship."
On 27 July, Vanuatu's Trade Minister James Bule signed an order lifting the ban, effective from 22 July. No reason was given for the change of policy, but the Fiji Live news service reported that the decision averted a lawsuit from FMF and the threatened kava ban.
Fiji's Foreign Affairs chief executive officer, Isikeli Mataitoga, said that Fiji's policy of pursuing diplomatic channels in dealing with such disputes had been vindicated. "Whilst I agree that it can take a bit of time to see it through carefully, it nevertheless, demonstrates to our regional friends that we are principled in our approach to international relations and diplomacy," Mataitoga said.
There was another twist on 28 July, however, when FMF chairman Hari Punja called the lifting of the ban a fabrication. He said that in place of the ban, the Vanuatu government had introduced a restrictive new quota system for imports which would make it "impossible" to export to Vanuatu. He called on the Fijian government to continue to pressure its Vanuatu counterparts.
Foreign Minister Tavola denounced the latest move of the Vanuatu government on 3 August, saying that it breached an agreement. On 9 August, he announced that the government had decided to go ahead with its threatened embargo against the importing of Vanuatu kava. On 16 August the Cabinet finalized the decision, banning all imports of Vanuatu kava for six months, after which the ban would be reviewed. On 18 August, Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority chief executive Tevita Banuve said that importers would be given two weeks to clear their kava stock from the wharf. A special license would be granted only to clear the stock, he said. It would not be usable for importing more kava.
On 27 August, Tavola announced that following negotiations at the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in Papua New Guinea, he expected the Vanuatu government to lift the biscuit ban soon. If they did so, he said he would ask the Cabinet to lift the embargo against Vanuatu kava.
The Fiji Village news service reported on 11 October that Vanuatu's Trade Minister, James Bule, would visit Fiji on 25 October. The purpose of the visit would be to deliver his government's decision to lift the ban on Fijian biscuits, in return for Fiji lifting its ban on Vanuatu kava.
In return for Vanuatu's lifting of the biscuit ban on 25 October, the Fijian government announced on 7 December that it was lifting its kava ban for the sake of freer trade among the members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Fijian missions abroad
Fiji maintains direct diplomatic or consular relations with countries with historical, cultural, or trading ties to Fiji; Ambassadors stationed in such countries are often accredited to neighbouring countries. Fiji maintains embassies in Belgium (taking care of Fiji's relations with the entire European Union), China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States; and High Commissions in Australia, India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and New Zealand (in keeping with the Commonwealth practice of calling missions in fellow-commonwealth countries High Commissions rather than Embassies). Fiji also has a Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Foreign reaction to Fijian legislation
Australia and New Zealand have both expressed concern over legislation currently before the Fijian Parliament (as of June 2005), which proposes to establish a Reconciliation and Unity Commission, with the power (subject to presidential approval) to compensate victims and pardon persons convicted of crimes related to the coup d'état which deposed the elected government in 2000.
On 30 August 2005, the then Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon called on the Fijian government to ensure that the legislation reflected the views of its citizens. He emphasized, however, that the Commonwealth did not have a position on the bill.
Fiji and international organizations
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Fiji plays an active role in numerous international bodies. The South Pacific Forum was largely the brainchild of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Fiji's first Prime Minister. The country has been an outspoken participant many international forums.
Commonwealth of Nations
Fiji has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations since it gained its independence in 1970. It was not a member of the Commonwealth between 1987 and 1997 as a result of a republican coup d'état, and was suspended just three years after rejoining between 2000 and 2001 after a military coup, and was suspended after the 2006 coup.
Oceania Customs Organisation
On 1 September 2005, it was announced that the Oceania Customs Organization would relocate to Fiji in 2006. Though located in Fiji, it would be totally independent of the Fijian government and of the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority (FIRCA), Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola said, and for the first three years of its presence in Fiji, its secretariat would be financed by the New Zealand government.
World Trade Organization
Speaking at the 18th Fiji-Australia Business Forum in Sydney on 17 October 2005, Prime Minister Qarase strongly criticized the World Trade Organization, saying that its policies were unfair to small countries like Fiji. "WTO is trying to impose equality of trade in an unequal world," he said, "but for developing countries like Fiji there is no level playing field, just a slippery slope." It would be a long time before Fiji's economy could compete on equal terms with that of more developed nations, he considered.
International Labour Organization
On 10 January 2006, the Fijian government criticized the International Labour Organization for what it said was the organization's unfair treatment of the Fiji Islands Congress of Trade Unions (FICTU). Labour Minister Kenneth Zinck said the government had received a complaint from FICTU about the ILO's discrimination against it in favour of the rival Fiji Trades Union Congress.
Speaking at the 6th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City on 23 May 2005, Isikia Savua, Fiji's Permanent Representative (Ambassador) to the United Nations, called for equal recognition of individual and collective rights in national and international policies. He said that Fiji had embodied both concepts in its Constitution, through such provisions as communal voting (giving each elector to vote for two members of the House of Representatives, one from his or her own ethnic group, and the other from any ethnic group).
On 1 September 2005, Prime Minister Qarase announced his intention to ask his Australian counterpart, John Howard, for more favourable market access for Pacific Islands products. He called on Australia and New Zealand to revise the rules of origin under the SPARTECA trade agreement, and reduce the figure from 50 percent to 35 percent, thereby allowing Fiji to export a higher percentage of garments made elsewhere to Australian and New Zealand markets.
On 28 October 2005, Prime Minister Qarase criticized Australia and New Zealand for refusing to grant temporary work permits to Pacific Islanders. He said the two countries were acting unfairly in assuming that such permits would encourage illegal immigration. The Prime Minister claimed that in the absence of such work permits, Pacific Islanders visiting Australia and New Zealand often undertook illegal employment anyway.
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