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Penny Wong and Kausea Natano

More than just a climate deal: The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union treaty and the EU’s potential contribution to the Pacific

by Manisha Reuter , Frédéric Grare

The Falepili Union treaty prioritises Tuvalu’s urgent concerns about climate change. As the EU looks to deepen relations with partners in the Indo-Pacific, it should tailor its offers to regional priorities  In early November, on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands, Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese and Kausea Natano, his counterpart from Tuvalu, a Polynesian archipelago, announced that they would elevate their bilateral relationship to a more integrated partnership known as the Falepili Union. Under the Falepili Union treaty, Australia commits to Tuvalu’s safety – including through a special visa arrangement for Tuvalu citizens to migrate to Australia, as well as by uplifting its development assistance and support for Tuvalu’s climate adaptation efforts. In return, Tuvalu will mutually agree with Australia any security and defence partnerships it concludes with other states. Both countries also commit to protecting and promoting each other’s collective security and sovereignty. For Australia, the partnership is a way to help pull Tuvalu away from China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. Security and defence partnerships include those on policing, border protection, cyber security, and critical infrastructure (such as ports, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure). Natano has downplayed the importance of Tuvalu’s obligation to consult Australia on its partnerships, saying that the treaty only requires his country to approach Australia first on military issues, but the clause gives Australia veto power over any security arrangement Tuvalu may be tempted to conclude with other nations. Despite the distance, the Falepili Union treaty did not go unnoticed in Europe. European officials have focused on the significance of the agreement in the context of the climate crisis, arguing that it highlights the need for all countries to drastically reduce carbon emissions. In the media, the treaty has sometimes been referred to as a strategic victory by Australia over China, though little if any attention has been paid to the actual security provisions. But the partnership holds important lessons about how to engage with potential partners in the Indo-Pacific. As an archipelago of nine low lying islands with their highest point just 4.5 metres above sea level, for Tuvalu – much like other South Pacific countries – climate change, not China, constitutes an existential threat. The Falepili Union illustrates the fundamental gap between the threat perceptions of big countries in the Indo-Pacific such as Australia, whose concerns are primarily strategic, and those of smaller and more vulnerable ones such as most South Pacific islands. These countries operate at a sub-strategic level, with their location their only real strategic asset, but one which larger countries cannot ignore. The Falepili Union treaty responds to Tuvalu’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change. It is not the first programme facilitating mobility in the Pacific. New Zealand’s “Pacific Access” visa category and Samoa quota resident visa enable 2,400 people to move from the Pacific to New Zealand on a permanent basis every year. The United States offers similar possibilities to eligible citizens of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau to live and work in the US indefinitely. However, the Falepili Union treaty is the first agreement to link mobility explicitly to climate change, allowing migration in anticipation of climate-related disasters. It is also meant to help Australia deepen its ties with other Pacific countries by easing the critique that it should be embracing stronger climate action. The response by Pacific nations has so far been positive. Unsurprisingly, the US, New Zealand, and even Taiwan, have expressed their support for the initiative. But the Falepili Union has also been publicly backed by the prime minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown, and, more surprisingly perhaps, by the foreign minister of the Solomon Islands, Jeremiah Manele, whose country signed a controversial security partnership with China in 2022. There have also been speculations in diplomatic circles that Kiribati and Nauru might sign similar agreements with Australia in the future, with Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong declaring that the Falepili Union “does signal how we are prepared to approach our membership of the Pacific family”. Taneti Maamau, Kiribati’s president, though, has so far been noncommittal about the possibility of concluding a similar treaty, saying that Kiribati has its “own strategies and [its] own initiatives”. No Pacific island wants to be drawn into a great power rivalry involving China, nor be coerced in any way by Beijing’s opponents. The treaty illustrates that the struggle with China for influence in the Indo-Pacific is not just about military power, but also about the capacity to assuage the anxieties of the Pacific states regarding their own survival and future. The Falepili Union should thus inspire Europeans to tailor their partnerships according to the needs and interests of countries in the region and provide them with attractive offers for cooperation. As Europe looks for ways to deepen partnerships in the region, it will find that many of the smaller island states’ own priorities overlap with Europe’s aims. It would thus make strategic sense for the European Union to prioritise climate adaptation projects, which also have the benefit of enabling knowledge transfers to and from Europe. It can use the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the EU-Pacific Green-Blue Alliance, funded through the Global Gateway to achieve these objectives. In addition to support designed to address the effects of climate change on island nations, the EU can also contribute to capacity building for monitoring, policing, and enforcement. Island nations in the South Pacific have limited capacities in these fields, which are crucial for guaranteeing their maritime security. The EU’s decision to extend CRIMARIO, an EU-funded initiative to help partners better govern their maritime spaces by enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness through information sharing initiatives, capacity building, and training is one example of what the EU can propose. Technical and financial capacities would offer South Pacific island states additional options to choose their partners and alleviate the pressure resulting from being caught in great power rivalry. Such an approach would also allow the EU to promote the “inclusive and effective multilateral partnerships” that are at the heart of its Indo-Pacific strategy. None of these steps bring absolute guarantees against an increased and potentially hostile Chinese presence in the region, but they nevertheless help reduce the strategic and political space in which Beijing can operate. The views and opinions expressed in this article solely belong to the author and do not represent the perspectives or stance of World and New World Journal, nor do they reflect the opinions of any of our employees. World and New World Journal does not endorse or take responsibility for the content, opinions, or information presented in this article. Readers are encouraged to consider multiple sources and viewpoints for a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Thank you for your understanding.

Energy & Economics
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins giving speech at World Food Form

Keynote address the Closing Ceremony of the World Food Forum

by Michael D. Higgins

Director-General, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Dear Friends, Young and Old, This week, as we have gathered here at the World Food Forum in the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Rome to discuss the necessary transformation of our agri-food systems, we must not only be conscious of targets missed or imperfectly achieved, but of the need for courage, and to generate new capacity to move to new models of better connection between economy, social protection, social justice and ecology. We are confronted with a climate and biodiversity emergency that cannot be handled by the tools that produced it or by the architecture of how we made decisions before. We are called upon to, once and for all, tackle with alternatives and sustained effort and innovation, the vicious circle of global poverty and inequality, global hunger, debt and climate change, our interacting crises. That is the context in which sustainable food systems must be achieved. I ask you all gathered today to respond in the most meaningful way within your capacity, within your generation, in a way that includes all generations, to the challenge set out by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his recent statements: This is how the Secretary-General put it: “The Sustainable Development Goals aren’t just a list of goals. They carry the hopes, dreams, rights and expectations of people everywhere. In our world of plenty, hunger is a shocking stain on humanity and an epic human rights violation. It is an indictment of every one of us that millions of people are starving in this day and age.” It can be put right but we must change and there is work involved in upskilling in such a way that we can not only identify and critique assumptions of failing models but be able to put the alternative models in place. We have had so many broken promises. Only 15 percent of some 140 specific targets to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are on track to be achieved. Many targets are going in the wrong direction at the present rate, and not a single one is expected to be achieved in the next seven years. However, we have some reasons to be hopeful. When I look around this room today, I see so many engaged and committed people, including young people who have the enthusiasm, energy and creativity needed to tackle the serious structural causes of food insecurity and global hunger. But it is important to acknowledge that young people are not alone in seeking authenticity of words delivered into actions that have an ethical outcome. There are those who have spent their lives seeking a fairer world, one in which hunger would be eliminated – as it can be. We must recognise their efforts. We must work together to harness this collective energy and creativity into strong movements that will deliver, finally, a food-secure world for all. This will require, I suggest, moving to a new culture of sharing information, experiences, insights. As the cuts have taken effect, we must take the opportunity of developing a view, post-silo culture, of sharing insights, and I see FAO as uniquely positioned for this. As Glenn Denning, Peter Timmer and other food experts have stated, achieving food security is not an easy task given how food hunger is “deeply entwined with the organisation of economic activities and their regulation through public policies”, given, too, how governments and markets must work together, how the private, public and third sectors must work together. All of our efforts must have the character of inclusivity. Each of us as global citizens has a responsibility to respond. To ignore it would be a dereliction of our duty of care to our shared planet and its life-forms including our fellow humans and future generations. The Secretary-General’s pleas in relation to the consequences of climate change are given a further terrible reality in the increased and spreading threat of hunger, a food insecurity which is directly affected by the impact of climate change. For example, figures published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that 26.2 percent of Africa’s population experienced severe food insecurity in 2021, with 9.8 percent of the total global population suffering from undernourishment the same year. It is time for us all, as leaders and global citizens, to take stock of how words are leading to actions, to increase the urgency of our response to what is a grave existential threat and to achieve change. It is clear, as the Secretary-General’s powerful statement shows, that we need to begin the work of reform in our international institutional architecture, such as UN reform at the highest level, including the Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions, if we are to achieve what the Secretary-General has suggested is the challenge to “turn a year of burning heat into a year of burning ambition”. Let us commit then to sharing purposes, projects, resources, seeking a new culture for sustenance solutions. Those of us who have spent much of our lives advocating UN reform believe that its best prospects are in the growing acknowledgement of the importance of the vulnerabilities and frustrated capacity of the largest and growing populations of the world being represented, not only nominally but effectively, through a reform that includes reform of the Bretton-Woods Institutions. As Secretary-General Guterres has said on a number of occasions, it is time to reform what are 1945 institutions, including the Security Council and Bretton Woods, in order to align with the “realities of today’s world”. We have to acknowledge too that the development models of the 1950s and 1960s were part of the assumptions that brought us to the crises through which we are living. New models are needed and the good news is that a new epistemology, our way of looking at the world, of sufficiency and sustainability, is emerging. We are seeing good work already occurring. Good development scholarship is available to us. I reference, for example Pádraig Carmody’s recent book, Development Theory and Practice in a Changing World. Such work builds important bridges from the intellectual work that is so badly needed and is welcome at the centre of our discourse on all aspects of interacting crises, including global hunger, and the need to link economy, ecology and a global ethics. What we must launch now is a globalisation from below. Replacing the globalisation from above that has given us a burning planet and threatened democracy itself, with a globalisation from below of the fullest participation, we can establish and indeed extend democracy, offering accountability and transparency of our work together. Writers such as Pádraig Carmody are not alone in suggesting that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals provides the opportunity for moving past the worst contradictions of failed models and dangerous undeclared assumptions. The demise of hegemonic development theory and practice may be a result of several factors, such as the rise of ultra-nationalism around the world, the increasing importance of securitisation where the most powerful insulate their lives from the actions of the excluded, and the existential threat posed by the climate crisis. Such research adds to the growing body of development literature that argues for a pro-active, structural-focused, tailored approach to development. The Hand-in-Hand Initiative of the FAO, details of which were discussed at this week’s parallel session, is a most welcome initiative, one that aims to raise incomes, improve the nutritional status and well-being of poor and vulnerable populations, and strengthen resilience to climate change. It heralds a belated recognition too of the insufficiency of a reactive emergency response to famine and hunger crises. It suggests a move towards one that tackles the underlying structural causes of hunger. Young people will need patience and to dig sufficiently deep to achieve these necessary changes. They are right in seeking to be partners, so much more than being allowed as attendees. Hand-in-Hand recognises the importance of tailor-made interventions to food security, using the best available evidence in the form of spatial data, validated on the ground through local diagnostics and policy processes, to target the most food insecure, the most hungry, the poorest. It recognises that context-specific employment and labour market policies are part of the sustainability challenge. I believe that evidence from below is crucial to achieving globalisation from below and that it can be achieved by a reintroduction of new re-casted anthropology guided by, among others, the new African scholars now available, whose work is empirical and peer-tested, can be invaluable in giving transparency on projects and investments – a strategy for fact-gathering for empowerment of rural people so like the 1955 fact-gathering with rural people of the FAO – first published in 1955 and used by me in 1969! Young people must be about upskilling to be able to critique all of the assumptions guiding the policies on to their lives. A key objective for us now must be to strengthen institutional capacity on the ground, not only at the strategic level, but also fundamentally, so that the public, farmers, and other stakeholders’ institutions are enabled to participate in territories-based agri-food systems. Such a move is fundamental to a successful food security strategy. Our institutional architecture and the multilateral bodies within it, must be made fit for purpose if we are to tackle effectively and meaningfully our contemporary food insecurity crisis which is worsening according to the 2023 Global Report on Food Crises, with 258 million people across 58 countries suffering acute food insecurity. Perhaps most crucially, we must acknowledge, as United Nations Programmes such as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative does, the critical importance of partnership and collaboration in addressing global hunger. We must do everything we can to ensure cross-sectoral co-ordination, foster coherent development actions, under a common, shared vision. We must end all wasteful competitive silo behaviours, create a culture of openness and co-operation. The FAO is well positioned to lead on this with its new invigorated partnerships with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Co-operation in the development and implementation of new models will be key to the achieving of any targets that seek to be sustainable and inclusive. For example, I suggest it will achieve best results if funders, such as the African Development Bank, are enabled and funded to work closely with research institutes, both at the national and international level, but particularly take account of field studies conducted over time at local level in the new anthropology so as to ensure that findings from the latest research feed into the design and implementation of any financial supports and investments. By providing a platform, a shared interactive transparent space for national authorities and producers, national and global businesses, multilateral development banks and donors to discuss and advance ways and means to finance the supported national food programmes, initiatives such as Hand-in-Hand are proving to be an effective flagship programme of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Co-operation must work both ways. For example, the parts of the so-called ‘developed’ world suffering from problems of high levels of obesity and food wastage must learn from the deep knowledge and wisdom existing in the most populated continents, as well as the science, which points to a new ecological revolution, one in which agroecology – the bringing of ecological principles to develop new management approaches in agroecosystems – can play a fundamental role, especially for the poorest of our global citizens. We have seen the destructive impact of colonial models of agronomy promoting an over-reliance on a small number of commodity crops, herders incentivised to become less mobile and store less grain in order to maximise commodity crop production, and increasing imports in conditions of near monopoly of seeds, pesticides and fertilisers. This had the deadly effect of opening up farmers not only to the full force of extended droughts, the ravages of variable climate conditions, and a reliance on non-indigenous inputs, but also to global spaces where they have insufficient influence. We must retreat from these dysfunctional food systems model, with their related dependencies, with urgency and embrace models of sufficiency and effective local markets and see the value of making our way too that includes agro-ecological models that promote food security and development opportunities for the poorest people on our fragile planet. Adaptation and responding to the already changing climate is crucial for all of us, and especially in the most food-insecure nations. We must restore degraded ecosystems, introduce drought-resistant crops, ensure accessible digital services for smallholder farms, while creating new, sustainable green jobs for young people so that we may forge a smart, sustainable, climate-resilient development path for the continent. This week we have to acknowledge the many challenges we face including, inter alia, the energy, climate and biodiversity crises, war and conflict which exacerbate food insecurity, ensuring enabling policy environments, and reaching the long-term goal of sustainable food system transformation. Any agri-food initiative, be it for Africa, the Middle-East, Central or South America, or other food-insecure regions, must place inclusivity at its core. Specifically, more vulnerable, smallholder farmers must be targeted for inclusion as programme beneficiaries, not just large-scale, industrial level farmers and ever-expanding commercial plantations. Research has shown that irresponsible agri-business deals are sometimes falsely legitimated by the promotion of alleged achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Number 2 at any cost, without care as to consequence, ignoring the reality that smallholders need enabling policies to enhance their role in food production; that food insecurity is linked to rights, processes, and unequal access to land resources; and that dispossession disproportionately affects women farmers. On this latter issue of gender, achieving zero hunger requires gender-inclusive land and labour policies. Actions must prioritise the inclusion of women and girls who are more food insecure than men in every region of the world. Women must have a right to land recognised and enshrined. The gender gap in food security has grown exponentially in recent years, and will only deteriorate further in the absence of targeted intervention. Women are obviously the most impacted victims of the food crisis, thus they must be a part of the solution. Women produce up to 80 percent of foodstuffs. Empowering women farmers can thus serve as a transformative tool for food security. However, female farmers have, research tell us, limited access to physical inputs, such as seeds and fertiliser, to markets, to storage facilities and this must be addressed. Climate change, and our response to it, addressing global hunger and global poverty, exposing and breaking dependency is a core theme of my Presidency. It is the most pressing existential crisis that our vulnerable planet and its global citizens face. Throughout the world, young people and the youth sector have been at the vanguard of efforts to tackle climate change. Young people have demonstrated, time and again, how well-informed and acutely aware they are of the threat that climate change poses, as well as its uneven and unequal impacts. May I suggest to all of you that, as young innovators and future leaders in your respective fields, you will be at your best, achieve the greatest fulfilment for yourself and others, when you locate your contribution within a commitment to be concerned and contributing global citizens. Take time to ask how is my energy in the tasks of hand and brain being delivered and for whose benefit. May I suggest, too, that you will be remembered and appreciated all the more if you work to ensure that the results of science, technology are shared and that all human endeavours are allowed to flow across borders for the human benefit of all and with a commitment to ecological responsibility and inclusivity. Offer your efforts where they can have the best effect for all. Locate yourselves in the heart of the populated world, as Nobel Laureate William Campbell did with his research on river blindness. Changing our food systems is, however, let us not forget, an intergenerational challenge that requires an inter-generational approach. We must now empower youth to be in the driver’s seat to build a new, better, transparent model of food security in a variety of different settings. Let us endeavour, together, in our diverse world, to seek to build a co-operative, caring and non-exploitative global civilisation free from hunger, a shared planet, a global family at peace with nature and neighbours, resilient to the climate change that is already occurring, one based on foundations of respect for each nation’s own institutions, traditions, experiences and wisdoms, founded on a recognition of the transcendent solidarity that might bind us together as humans, and reveal a recognition of the responsibility we share for our vulnerable planet and the fundamental dignity of all those who dwell on it. Thank you. Beir beannacht.

Flag of New Zealand, 2023 Elections

The 2023 Election in New Zealand and its Foreign Policy Implications

by Robert Patman

Foreign policy has yet to feature significantly in New Zealand’s elections despite its obvious implications for national security and development. Internationally, observers are looking for what the elections will mean for policy towards AUKUS, the Ukraine War, and, crucially, climate change. The world is at an inflection point in history. Putin’s Russia is attempting to annex Ukraine, the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict has exploded again, China’s security pact with the Solomon Islands highlights a growing Pacific presence, and the tempo of climate change seems to be overwhelming efforts to counter the single biggest threat to life on earth. However, these issues have yet to feature prominently in the New Zealand general election scheduled for 14 October. The political campaigns of the two major parties, Labour and National, and those of the minor parties, the Greens, ACT and New Zealand First have largely focused on what they see as domestic concerns – inflation and the cost of living, crime, tax cuts, public services, and co-governance. To some degree, this reflects the fact the Labour and National leaderships have adopted a largely bipartisan approach to foreign policy Chris Hipkins and Chris Luxon say they support an independent, principled New Zealand foreign policy that is committed to advancing an international rules-based order that is enshrined in institutions such as the United Nations and norms such as multilateralism. Both leaders view Australia as New Zealand’s closest and most important ally, and declare their backing for international human rights, the expansion of free trade, the maintenance of a non-nuclear security policy, and a strong focus on the Indo-Pacific, especially the Pacific Island states region. In the area of defence, there is slightly more daylight between the major parties. Both Hipkins and Luxon recognise that a declining international security environment requires greater New Zealand defence spending. But Labour claims its defence spending commitment is more credible than that of National. For one thing, Labour’s NZD$4.7 billion capital investment in the defence sector during its six years in government is double what National did in nine years at the helm. At the same time, Labour has pledged to improve retention in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) by tasking the Remuneration Authority to independently set pay rates and allowances for uniformed defence personnel. Furthermore, many New Zealand politicians and media commentators readily assume “bread and butter” domestic issues are simply more important to New Zealand voters than questions of foreign policy. It is almost as if domestic issues in New Zealand are somehow divorced from developments in the international arena, but that is a shaky assumption in an increasingly interconnected world. Whoever forms the next government of New Zealand will have to deal with at least three major “intermestic” issues that blur the boundaries between domestic and international policy, and to date have not received the attention they deserve in the 2023 election. First, the Putin regime’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has had significant economic and diplomatic consequences for the Indo-Pacific region and also for New Zealand. In the Indo-Pacific, Russia’s assault on Ukraine led to soaring prices for food and energy and a regional awareness that heavyweights like China and India remain important partners of Moscow. In New Zealand, the continuing volatility in international commodity markets has led to increased prices for imported goods and growing pressure on domestic inflation and business margins. Meanwhile, Russia’s Ukraine invasion – which flagrantly violates UN principles of state sovereignty and territorial integrity – confronts New Zealand with the greatest threat to the international rules-based order on which it critically depends. To date, New Zealand has contributed more than $70 million in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, but that amount pales in comparison with the scale of the aid provided by Australia and Canada to Kiev. This raises a key question for Kiwi voters. Is New Zealand providing sufficient military aid to Ukraine to safeguard a core national interest in helping to ensure Vladimir Putin’s land grab fails? Second, New Zealand faces a potentially momentous decision in relation to whether it should join the second pillar of AUKUS – the tripartite security partnership established by the US, UK, and Australia in September 2021 – to share information in state-of-the-art defence technologies to deter or counter China’s assertiveness. In March 2023, the Biden administration had indicated that the door was open for New Zealand to join the second pillar of this Anglosphere security partnership. New Zealand’s non-nuclear stance meant the country was not invited to participate in the first pillar of AUKUS, an initiative whereby the US and UK are committed to supporting Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines over the next three decades at a cost of somewhere between AUD$268 billion and AUD$368 billion. The case for New Zealand’s membership of the second pillar rests on the conviction that Wellington needs to more closely align itself with like-minded democratic partners at a time of intensifying US-China rivalry and growing assertiveness by an authoritarian regime in Beijing in Indo-Pacific and beyond. However, partial membership of AUKUS does not sit comfortably with an evolving New Zealand identity based on non-nuclear security, closer ties with the Pacific, and a worldview seeking to strengthen, not merely uphold, an international rules-based order (through measures like UN Security Council reform) to enhance global security. To date, neither the Labour or the National leadership seem willing to adopt a clear position towards AUKUS before the October election. Third, New Zealand’s response to climate change has struggled to get much traction as an election issue. Like many countries, New Zealand has experienced cyclones, floods, wildfires, and other extreme climate-related events with increasing frequency in recent years. As a signatory to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, New Zealand has pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 50 percent in 2030 but remains, according to the IMF, significantly off track to meet this target. This slippage, in turn, places a big question mark over whether New Zealand can reach a target – supported by all political parties except the ACT party – to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. As a major exporter of agricultural products, New Zealand clearly has a big economic stake in reversing the national and global impact of climate change. However, with the exceptions of the Green Party and Te Pāti Māori, New Zealand’s political parties, including Labour and National, generally seem to be putting short-term economic concerns above future climate needs. On balance, while political leaders and the media may have shown little interest in foreign policy during the 2023 election, the rise of “intermestic” issues that straddle aspects of both domestic and international affairs is likely to have a significant impact on the lives of New Zealanders regardless of how they vote.

Rock Islands on the Pacific Ocean

China is playing the long game in the Pacific. Here’s why its efforts are beginning to pay off

by Graeme Smith

A week-long trip to Beijing by the Pacific’s most flamboyant statesman Manasseh Sogavare, was always going to cause concern in Canberra. The substance of the visit was as expected. The relationship between China and the Solomon Islands was upgraded to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” (on par with Papua New Guinea, the first Pacific nation to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative). Nine agreements were also signed covering everything from civil aviation and infrastructure to fisheries and tourism. The Chinese premier, Li Qiang, who inked the deals with Sogavare, made a point of not mentioning the controversial policing cooperation agreement, the draft of which was leaked more than a year ago to New Zealand academic Anna Powles. Despite repeated calls from Australia and New Zealand to release the text of the policing agreement, there is no indication the Chinese or the Solomon Islands leadership will do so. There were also moments of theatre in Sogavare’s trip. The prime minister declared “I’m back home” when he arrived in Beijing in a clip posted by China Global Television Network. He then said in a longer interview on the same network that his nation had been “on the wrong side of history” for the 36 years it recognised Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China, and lauded President Xi Jinping as a “great man”. Sogavare saved his biggest serve for his return to the Solomon Islands, though. He accused Australia and New Zealand of withdrawing crucial budget support and hinted he would look to China to fulfil his ambitions to establish an armed forces, should Australia be unwilling to help.China’s slow start in the PacificSome key questions have been overlooked this week in the pantomime about what Australia should or shouldn’t do to shore up its relationship with an important Pacific partner. (We could start by accepting that Sogavare will never love us, and avoid getting into an arms race in the Solomon Islands with China.) What’s been somewhat lost, though, is how China has made inroads so quickly in a region that it still officially classifies as “peripheral”. China has certainly had to work harder to gain a foothold in the region. Relative to other regions, it has a lack of historical state ties with the Pacific. In Africa and Southeast Asia, China can draw on memories of shared anti-colonial struggles and aid projects like the Tanzam railway. In the Pacific, the Chinese Communist Party is a latecomer. Also holding it back is the remoteness and small population of the region. This has not made the Pacific a good fit for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has flourished in countries with rapid transport and communication links, substantial Chinese diasporas and leaders who are easily reached. Most of China’s own Pacific experts were baffled when the region was belatedly included in the project. Yet despite these obstacles, it’s clear the Chinese state’s approach in the Pacific has shifted, most remarkably in its diplomacy and the role state-linked companies are expected to play. Diplomats with serious intent China’s wolf warrior diplomacy has received plenty of attention, but the picture in the Pacific is less straightforward. The recently appointed special envoy to the Pacific, Qian Bo, undoubtedly styles himself as a wolf warrior. Under his tenure as Fijian ambassador, a Taiwanese representative was assaulted by Chinese diplomats for the crime of displaying a Taiwanese flag cake. Yet, other appointments suggest China is appointing higher-calibre diplomats to the region. These include Li Ming, the current ambassador to the Solomon Islands, and Xue Bing, the former ambassador to Papua New Guinea who now holds the challenging post of special envoy to the Horn of Africa. With experience in the region and good language skills, these diplomats have been more able to engage with Pacific communities than their predecessors, who largely focused on sending good news back to Beijing. More serious representatives suggest more serious intent.Chinese companies exerting influence, tooChina’s state-linked companies remain the driving force behind China’s engagement with the Pacific. Unlike the embassies, they are well-resourced and have skin in the game. Many company men (in construction, where Chinese companies dominate, they’re mostly men) are based in the region for decades, developing a deep understanding of how to win projects and influence political elites. Failed projects generate plenty of headlines, but many companies – such as COVEC PNG and China Railway First Group – are effective operators. They are building infrastructure cheaply in the Pacific and winning the favour of multilateral donors, particularly the Asian Development Bank. For larger state-linked companies, like China Harbor Engineering Company and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the geopolitical game has shifted. In the past, they could rely on their standing within the Chinese political system (their parent companies often outrank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to resist pressure to act on behalf of state. Now, they are expected to carry geopolitical water for Beijing. Often this can benefit the companies. For instance, when CCECC lobbied the Solomon Islands leadership to switch their allegiance from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China, it helped the company when it came to bidding for projects for the Pacific Games in Honiara. The leaders of these companies realise it can harm their image when they are seen as Beijing’s pawns. Yet, the companies, diplomats and Pacific leaders who choose Beijing’s embrace know times have changed. China is now a serious player in the region with a development philosophy to sell. It’s no longer enough to read Beijing’s talking points. You have to look like you mean it.

Energy & Economics
concept of lithium mine extraction and international commodity prices. Supplier of minerals for production.dice with 'lithium' word,miniature workers digging

Global Lithium Supply and Australia's Role

by Dr. Marina Yue Zhang

Australia plays a pivotal role in global Lithium supply chains. While joining initiatives like the Minerals Security Partnership may in the short term provide strategic security, this must be weighed against the broader interests of global development and climate change mitigation.  Lithium is both a critical element and strategic resource as nations strive to achieve their decarbonisation goals. Amid increasing geopolitical tensions, nationalism, and protectionism, investments in strategic resources are subject to security reviews to assess potential political risks and safeguard national security interests. Such scrutiny reflects the growing importance of protecting critical resources and assets as countries strive to maintain their sovereignty in an uncertain global environment where trust and adherence to a rules-based order are diminishing. China currently dominates the global lithium supply chain with over 60 percent of processing capacity, 65 percent of lithium-ion battery component manufacturing, and 77 percent of battery manufacturing. The concentration of the lithium supply chain in China has raised concerns in the United States (US) and the European Union, resulting in a shared priority of reducing dependence on China in their respective industrial and trade policies. Accounting for 55 percent of global lithium production – with 96 percent of it exported to China in 2022 – Australia holds a significant position in the “de-risking” effort of the US-led Minerals Security Partnership, which aims to strengthen commercial ties between strategically aligned nations. Australian Resources Minister Madeleine King has emphasised the importance that Australia participate in this alliance. Jim Chalmers, Australia’s Treasurer, has called for caution and selectivity in foreign investments in critical minerals. While not explicitly stated, it is evident that Australia intends to impose restrictions on investments from China in critical minerals. At the recent G7 Summit in Japan, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reached an agreement to build an independent supply chain for critical minerals. As part of this agreement, Australian companies will have the opportunity to benefit from US subsidies if they establish value-adding facilities within Australia. Building onshore lithium processing facilities in Australia can provide benefits such as reduced shipping costs and job creation. However, it requires significant investment in building processing technology and waste management facilities. Meanwhile, aligning with the US-led alliance could risk escalating tensions with the potential for retaliation from China. But, accepting China’s investment and technology for onshore lithium processing may raise concerns about aligning with China’s political identity. The definition of “likemindedness” and the alignment of interests in foreign investment have become subject to debate. Tianqi Lithium, a Chinese company, portrayed itself as a “likeminded” foreign investor during its attempt to acquire equity in ASX-listed Essential Metals (ESS), emphasising its potential contribution to Australia’s moving up the value chain. However, this interpretation contradicts the evolving understanding of the term held by Australian politicians and the public, which is more narrowly focused on political identity. Benefits and costs Within this competition, a primary concern is that China will leverage its dominant position as a geopolitical  “chokepoint,” similar to the way Russia did over energy resources during its invasion of Ukraine. However, reciprocity is also true in a chokepoint strategy due to interdependence. Possessing eight percent of known global lithium reserves, China relies on imports for about 65 percent of its lithium production. This dependence exposes China to its own potential chokepoint. In this respect, Australia plays a pivotal role in China’s supply chain security. The fear of being “strangled” in the supply of lithium has led to a growing  security dilemma – nations strive to secure a stable and uninterrupted supply for decarbonisation efforts; however, this pursuit  could trigger a cycle of competition for production and processing capacity, potentially resulting in redundancy in the supply chain and, more importantly, increased pollution. The US, despite being a major consumer of lithium batteries, has limited control over the global lithium supply, with only one percent of known lithium reserves. To ensure energy security during the clean energy transition, the United States is actively pursuing strategies to strengthen its position in the lithium supply chain. This may involve decoupling or de-risking strategies that come with economic, social, and environmental costs but can provide advantages in terms of global influence, political leadership, and technology sovereignty compared to China. While clean energy technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles offer carbon-neutral benefits during use, their production processes can have a substantial environmental impact – lithium extraction and processing, for example, is energy-intensive and can contribute to carbon emissions. A recent opinion article in Nature highlights the importance of considering the entire life cycle of clean energy technologies, from production to application, to effectively mitigate their environmental impact. Driven by the need for energy security and its commitment to achieving its carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals, China has made remarkable strides in developing clean energy technologies over the past decade. Notably, China has gained a significant advantage across the supply chain. This competitive edge has been achieved through substantial investment in research and development, but also significant environmental costs. In 2022, China’s investment in clean energy technology exceeded – by more than 50 percent – that of all of the G7 nations, plus South Korea, and India, combined. China is strategically investing in future technologies, including the full cycle of lithium production. Chinese lithium giants are constructing solar power stations for clean lithium extraction in South America, and Chinese researchers are working on battery recycling technologies and exploring new materials and innovative processes in battery making. Riding on an established wheel or inventing a new one? When it comes to fighting climate change and the urgent need for action, nations have the choice to build upon established technologies or explore new ones. Countries need to adopt an open-minded approach and avoid repeating past mistakes that have harmed the environment in the search for sustainable solutions. This requires a global effort based on collaboration and cooperation, transcending political divisions. China, as a developing country, has benefited from technology transfer and foreign investment during its industrialisation. In the emerging area of clean energy transition, it has gained first-mover advantages, although it has incurred significant costs, especially environmental damage. Chinese investment is often referred to as “red capital,” indicating the potential for political influence, particularly by its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in foreign investment projects. Though most of Chinese lithium companies are private businesses, they are still collectively categorised as red capital, and not viewed as likeminded investors. It would be short-sighted to reject Chinese technologies and investments solely on the basis of political divisions. Instead, countries should learn from both the successes and challenges of China’s experience to achieve their decarbonisation goals. For Australia, it is important to go beyond simplistic policies and carefully assess the benefits and costs of joining a US-centered geopolitical bloc in the lithium supply chain. Such a decision could have repercussions, including retaliations and disruptions in global supply chains and trade. Moreover, it is crucial to both fully assess the environmental consequences and carefully calculate the necessary investments in technology and infrastructure in order to develop a strategic plan that benefits Australia, contributes to global decarbonisation efforts, and promotes the well-being of humanity.

Defense & Security
Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS or ANZUS Treaty)

Smooth sailing or choppy waters for Australia, NZ and the US in the Pacific?

by Anna Powles , Joanne Wallis

Last week’s announcement that US President Joe Biden would not travel to Papua New Guinea to meet with Pacific Islands Forum leaders was met with disappointment. Expectations were high: the White House had labelled the visit ‘historic’—it would have been the first time a sitting US president visited a Pacific island country—and claimed it would further reinforce the ‘critical partnership’ between the US and the Pacific islands. The meeting was a follow-up to the first-ever US–Pacific Island Country Summit held in Washington last September. But as far as sequels go, this one was a fizzer. Biden’s planned visit was looking shaky even before news of its cancellation, with controversary following leaks about the proposed US–PNG defence cooperation agreement. But the PIF leaders went ahead with their meeting, and the decision by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to attend, despite neither Biden nor Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese going, sent a strong signal to the Pacific of New Zealand’s commitment to the region. The Australian government has missed an opportunity to send a clear message that Australia shows up in the Pacific even when its larger alliance partner, the US, doesn’t. This brings us to the challenges facing Australia and New Zealand. In response to geopolitical shifts in the region and more broadly, Australia, New Zealand and the US have individually, and in cooperation with each other, sought to enhance their relationships with Pacific island countries and deepen their involvement in the region. However, as we argue in our new ASPI report, released today, cooperation between the three partners faces several challenges—and raises questions for Australia and New Zealand. Despite the rhetoric—at times tokenistic—from the three partners about respecting Pacific agency, ambitions and activism, genuine change requires the kind of mindset shift that may prove challenging, particularly for the US. For example, the Partners in the Blue Pacific initiative reflects outdated modes of thinking about the power dynamics underpinning the three nations’ activities in the Pacific. There are limits to the assumed leadership of Australia, New Zealand and the US, as the Solomon Islands – China security agreement highlighted. China, and others, are here to stay. Pacific island countries have options—and alternatives—to their status quo relationships. As unwelcome as Australia, New Zealand and the US may find China’s presence in the region, they need to plan for how they will work alongside a range of partners in the Pacific. This isn’t about accommodation, necessarily, but nor is it about constraint when Pacific island countries pursue their own interests. It’s becoming harder for the three partners to balance their interests and values while at the same time attempting to reconcile broader strategic interests with Pacific priorities. Australia, New Zealand and the US pride themselves on being liberal democratic nations committed to upholding human rights and the international rules-based order. But respect for those values is being tested by their perceived need to advance their strategic interests. Controversy over the AUKUS partnership raises questions about how closely the partners want to relate to each other in the Pacific islands region. Differences among Australia, New Zealand and the US mean that, in some instances, they may wish to carefully consider risks to their reputations and to their individual relationships with Pacific island countries. This includes New Zealand’s stance on nuclear issues, as well as Australia’s and New Zealand’s abilities, as members of the Pacific Islands Forum, to act as a constraining influence on US ambitions in the Pacific when they cut across collective Pacific interests. The US needs to appreciate that Australia and New Zealand are bound to the Pacific through geography, history, constitutional relationships and, increasingly, identity. The challenges we outline in our report are not insurmountable. But how Australia, New Zealand and the US partner with the Pacific—and with each other—matters deeply. These considerations take conventional responses to strategic competition in the region beyond the binary reaction to China as the destabilising actor, and demand that the three partners reflect on their own contributions to peace and security. We therefore recommend that, when seeking to enhance their engagement in the region and work together, Australia, New Zealand, and the US should ensure that Pacific priorities direct activity, not their own. It’s important for the partners to ensure that their initiatives don’t undermine or supplant existing regional frameworks but instead expand on established mechanisms. And, importantly, Australia, New Zealand and the US must avoid competing with one another and instead cooperate more closely, where appropriate, to pool their collective strengths. Biden’s reason for skipping both the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting in PNG and the Quad summit in Sydney are well understood: the US domestic debt crisis took priority. But it has reminded the Pacific island countries—and Australia and New Zealand—that, despite its protestations, the US has yet to prove that it is a reliable and consistent partner to the Pacific. It should also serve as a reminder to Australia, New Zealand and the US that the time and opportunities they have to build trust and demonstrate their reliability to their Pacific partners are not limitless.

Energy & Economics
Cargo ship on Pacific Ocean Cost

UK joins Asia-Pacific trade bloc

by Marina Strezhneva

At the end of March, the negotiations that started in June 2021 on the accession of the United Kingdom to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) were successfully concluded, reflecting radical changes in British trade priorities after Brexit. More broadly, this move by London undoubtedly confirms the special importance that the Indo-Pacific region has acquired in the concept of "Global Britain" and in its subsequent relevant updates. The signing ceremony is scheduled for July 2023, for which the trade ministers of the participating countries and the United Kingdom will meet in Auckland (New Zealand). As a result of London's accession, this bloc will surpass the EU in terms of the combined population of its constituent countries. However, unlike the European Union, which the United Kingdom, on the contrary, left, the CPTPP does not have - to the satisfaction of British Eurosceptics - its own court like the EU Court of Justice, or a supranational budget. The union operates as a multinational trade agreement. An important obstacle that hindered reaching an agreement more quickly was London's refusal to weaken national food standards. But in the end, Ottawa (Canada) backed down on calls for London to lift the ban on importing beef with growth hormones. Beijing has also applied for membership in the CPTPP following London (the Chinese application is dated September 16, 2021, but negotiations have not yet begun). However, with London's accession as a full member of the agreement, China's chances of joining the bloc look somewhat weaker, as London is likely to obtain veto power on this issue. It is possible that they will use this veto under the pretext of ensuring higher trade standards within the agreement (including issues related to ecology and food safety). In any case, as It is known, the current British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak refers to China as a "systemic challenge", which London intends to respond to with "dynamic pragmatism." Currently, the CPTPP includes 11 states (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam), none of which are European. These countries collectively account for 13% of global GDP. The new partnership replaced the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement of 2016 with 12 participants, after former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2017. In 2020, the 11 countries of the CPTPP accounted for 8.4% of goods and services exported from the United Kingdom. In turn, 6.8% of imports to the United Kingdom came from these countries. The terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership eliminate unnecessary barriers to mutual trade of services by opening financial markets and reducing obstacles to cross-border investment, facilitating data exchange, increasing business mobility, and ensuring regulatory transparency. All of this will support the British government's plans to turn the country into a global technology and service hub, strengthen semiconductor and critical mineral supply chains to produce electric vehicles and wind turbines.London already has trade agreements with most members of this trading bloc, but now these relationships can deepen, and 99% of British goods exported to the bloc countries will be subject to zero import tariffs. Tariffs on imports of Peruvian bananas, Vietnamese rice, crab sticks from Singapore, and Malaysian palm oil into the UK will be reduced (this is a controversial issue that has sparked discussion in the UK, as the production of palm oil, as ecologists point out, leads to deforestation of tropical forests). At the same time, according to assessments by the British government itself, joining the CPTPP is expected to add no more than 0.08% per year to the country's economic growth in the long term (while the slowdown in growth due to Brexit is estimated at 4%). Many politicians and trade experts rightfully point out that participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not capable of compensating for the economic losses that the UK is experiencing due to its departure from the EU. Moreover, due to differences in its rules and standards from European regulations, Britain's accession will prevent it from returning to the European Union in case of a change of priorities. In other words, this agreement is like driving an additional wedge into the relationship between London and Brussels, which are just starting to improve. It is worth remembering in this regard that it was Liz Truss, a former trade minister in Boris Johnson's cabinet and one of the main advocates of independence from the EU, who submitted the British application to join the CPTPP. So far, for London, it is not so much a direct economic, but rather a strategic and symbolic acquisition, firstly due to the rapid growth (according to some estimates, up to 65% by 2030) in the number of middle-class consumers in a dynamically developing region, committed to innovation, and secondly, because of the fact that in the foreseeable future, mid-ranking trading powers such as Thailand and South Korea, which have already submitted applications, are planning to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Membership in the TPP is becoming more important for Britain due to the unattainability of a large trade agreement with the United States and the crisis in the World Trade Organization, which is currently unable to firmly enforce the rules of global trade. The matter is not limited to trade alone as London's foreign policy is clearly shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region. In this sense, Australia and Japan, concerned about economic pressure from China and its military ambitions, see Great Britain as a natural ally in opposing Beijing. It is assumed that stronger economic ties will lead to the strengthening of geostrategic alliances. Due to the high dependence of countries such as Chile on Beijing, which is the largest trading partner and main investor for Chileans, Britain's participation in the CPTPP, according to London's opinion, will contribute to the establishment of necessary connections that are seen by Britain's partners in the region as an attractive alternative to ties with China.

Defense & Security
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar with Admiral John C Aquilino, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command

India-Australia Defence Cooperation and Collaboration in the Indo-Pacific

by Dr Shubhamitra Das

The significant rise in defence and security ties between India and Australia has led to an ease in dealing with their responsibilities in multilateral regional forums. The institutionalisation of cooperation has also become more strategic.  The geostrategic positioning of India and Australia on the Indian and Pacific Oceans has helped with the convergence of interests, enabling relations to expand and steadily deepen. Unlike in earlier times when New Delhi and Canberra were searching for equal grounds for cooperation, the concept of the Indo-Pacific has made this easier, enhancing the conviction that greater engagement was an inevitability of their geographic circumstances. It made them partners to jointly take responsibility for maintaining a free, open, inclusive and peaceful Indo-Pacific, which demands a noticeable tilt towards defence and security cooperation. India has long aspired to be the key protagonist in the Indian Ocean; Australia has wanted to more naturally belong to the region. Moreover, Australia’s foreign policy over the years has emphasised playing a constructive role in the region with enhanced regional engagement. Though China looms large in each nation’s strategic calculation, the issues that unite both countries go beyond China and include the multifaceted challenges of maritime security, piracy, armed robbery, smuggling of small arms, protracted internal conflict, illegal, unprotected, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, cyber security, climate change, and ocean-born trade security. The India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (2020), upgraded from the bilateral strategic partnership of 2009, is an effort to broaden the scope of their defence and security relationship by finding new initiatives, methods, and mechanisms to sustain mutual security interests. These have been bolstered to-date through cooperation in the AUSINDEX, Kakadu, Pitch Black, Milan, and Malabar military exercises, and with further collaboration in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, 2+2 ministerial dialogues, Joint Working Group for research on enhancing defence industry, mutual logistics, and intelligence support and sharing agreements. These have included, for example, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and officer exchange programs. In addition, Australia’s invitation to India to join Exercise Talisman Sabre, the most important military exercise between Australia and the United States, will set another milestone for cooperation. Both countries further engage in humanitarian matters, energy security, and marine and space research. Their commitment to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in Afghanistan and within the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in vaccine distribution, for example, highly has been successful. In energy security, both have agreed to focus on UN Sustainable Development Goals and work on new and renewable technology in solar and wind energy. One potential area for cooperation – being maritime powers – will be wave energy for sustainable and resilient energy sources. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, in which India and Australia are deeply involved, will work on a whole array of issues involving marine ecology; security of maritime borders; pollutants, like marine plastics; IUU fishing; and marine research for conservation purposes. In addition, India and Australia have updated the Memorandum of Understanding in space programs, technology advancement, and joint space programs. Australia will also be supporting India in tracking the Gaganyaan mission – India’s first space-manned mission – at Cocos Keeling Island. Currently, India and Australia are at a crucial juncture. The election of the new government in Australia in 2022 is likely to aid the strong relationship between the two nations. But the turn for India to head the G20 is also expected to facilitate greater cooperation, particularly in economic and trade liberalisation and potential reform of economic regimes such as the World Trade Organization. In April 2022, India and Australia signed their first Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement. The fast pace at which their trade took off – from US$13.6 billion in 2007 to US$24.3 billion in 2020 – shows the many benefits of diversifying their trade. In addition, the elimination of tariffs for nearly 90 percent of Indian exports will further boost the Indian economy. The question is whether India will continue to engage its economy regionally in multilateral economic bodies. While it declined to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, India has begun a process of seeking bilateral FTAs with most member countries. What Australia and India can achieve bilaterally to make the comprehensive strategic partnership effective is to engage in dialogue with regional littoral countries on defence and security. This engagement will help with confidence-building and familiarity among partners. However, the advantage of this type of institutionalisation of the Indo-Pacific depends upon the degree to which states seek interaction. The littoral states, in this sense, should be included within the Indo-Pacific complex as much as possible. The emerging paradigm of inclusivity and pluralism within a free, open, and peaceful Indo-Pacific will bring together the littoral and less powerful countries of the region and empower them to join and engage with others; that is, those who otherwise do not have a voice or clout in international political platforms. Along these lines, the Indian Security and Growth for all (SAGAR) initiative seeks to enhance cooperation through information sharing, capacity building, coastline surveillance, and infrastructure building. The India-Australia-Indonesia trilateral dialogue is another attempt to enhance cooperation in the same direction. Although it was presumed in India that the Labor government in Australia might be more inclined toward China, it was understood that this did not mean a policy and behavioral turnaround. Instead, Canberra’s focus will include a mix of continuity and change. Australia has come a long way in its institutionalisation of the Indo-Pacific, and its ability to diversify its interests by engaging with the littoral countries deserves special attention. To be sure, China’s increased aggression in the South China Sea and it’s diplomatic handling of Australia’s COVID-19 inquiry have been influential here. But the process has also been captive to such institutionalisation as mentioned above. Australia’s involvement with Quad and its participation in the military exercises with India and other Quad countries in the Indian Ocean will continue to strain its relations with China. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine war will likely continue to drive foreign policy activism and cooperation among like-minded countries, of which Australia figures prominently. The takeaway here is that regular interaction between the two countries on various defence-related activities has worked to enhance mutual respect and understanding of shared values. This interaction has broader implications. Both nations can support each other in addressing issues of mutual concern internationally. Their engagement in trilateral groupings like the India-Australia-Indonesia and India-Japan-Australia dialogues, as well as joint engagement in the Supply Chains Resilience Initiative and the Quad with the United States and Japan, represent successful examples of bilateral and multilateral trust and relationship-building. One significant outcome of these growing partnerships will be to revive and strengthen the Indian Ocean Rim Association in awareness generation, capacity-building, and consensus-building. Lastly, all the above initiatives are government efforts to enhance partnerships. The involvement and regular interaction of academia, think tanks, civil society, and the media have been equally important and will continue to play an important role in boosting these relationships.

Defense & Security
Oceania political map. Region, centered on central Pacific Ocean islands with Australia

Australia should not overstate the threat of China in the Pacific, and mend relationships in the region

by Melissa Conley Tyler

The signing of a security agreement between Solomon Islands and China in April 2022 brought geopolitical competition and militarisation in the Pacific to the fore of public discussion. Australian policymakers and the public are concerned about the potential for a Chinese military base in the Pacific region. They harbour wider concerns that China’s influence is becoming sharper and more destructive. At a time of intensifying geostrategic competition, Australia may feel pressure to take a short-term and transactional approach towards the Pacific. Such crisis thinking would be unnecessary and counterproductive. Australia should frame its relationship with the Pacific in terms of long-term, generational partnership. It should be responsive to the Pacific’s priorities for development with a clear eye on a shared, long-term future. The Pacific will always be of great strategic significance for Australia. Peace and stability in Pacific island countries goes to the heart of Australia’s security, prosperity and national interest. This means Australia’s interest in the region, and the attention it pays to it, should remain clear, consistent and coherent, irrespective of whether there are crises or not. Genuine, consistent Australian engagement should address each Pacific island country’s unique needs through both bilateral and regional Pacific-led initiatives. There is a danger that a focus on China could overtake other priorities. This would undermine trust and lead to Australia’s diplomatic intentions not always being well-received. If Australia privileges its own institutional requirements and solutions above local agency and solutions, it can feed negative perceptions about Australia’s intent. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has spent much time in the Pacific since Labor won office. AAP/AP/Department of Foreign AffairsWhen Pacific leaders look at regional security they have an expanded view, which includes climate change, human security, gender equality, environmental and resource security, transnational crime and cybersecurity. This reflects insecurity in the Pacific at multiple levels: - globally, as a warming planet presents ecological and civilisational threats- regionally, as players and relationships change- nationally, as countries respond to the effects of COVID-19, natural disasters, illegal fishing, transnational crime and other threats, compounded by gender inequality- locally, where community leaders and security agencies struggle to control violence and conflicts in several countries. In some areas, law and order challenges and the proliferation of firearms mean the risks to individual safety and tribal and political violence are extremely real. These shared challenges and mutual threats require the long-term attention of Australia and Pacific island countries. We need to move beyond paying lip service to each others’ security concerns and develop a common security framework that responds to the full set of peace and security challenges in the Pacific. This requires deepening relationships and making sure shared concerns are not lost along the way. The good news is there are strong foundations to work on in Australia-Pacific co-operation. Australia has security co-operation arrangements with most Pacific Island states. These include police-to-police co-operation, defence capacity-building and joint military exercises. There are development programs designed to address drivers of fragility such as inequality and inclusive economic growth. There has been co-operation on climate science, sustainable fisheries and preserving maritime boundaries in the face of sea-level rise. Australia has goodwill in the region to draw on. There is a risk that Australia’s concerns about geopolitical change lead it to overstate differences with Pacific island countries. There will always be areas where views and interests align, and others where they do not. Australia needs to envisage Pacific island countries as a network of interaction, trade, exchange, communication and influence reaching across much of the Pacific Ocean. Strong relationships are not made up only of defence and security ties, and do not come into play only in situations of threat. They are the product of long-term, consistent and multifaceted engagement, genuine partnership with and respect for countries that are equally sovereign, and exchange that takes seriously all parties’ priorities, concerns and values. The opportunity exists for a rhetorical reset framing Australia as a generational partner for Pacific societies. Faced with a challenge to its profile and influence, Australia should pursue a long-term approach. The focus should be on economic integration, reciprocity and sustained commitment to generational progress. Australians should accept that Pacific island countries will engage with other countries, and work towards bridging the gaps in our defence, development and diplomatic relationships with the region.

Defense & Security
Government Buildings. Executive wing of Fiji Government offices. Prime Minister office

Fiji’s electoral crisis: when is a coup not a coup?

by Richard Herr

When is a coup not a coup? When it’s called a constitutional crisis. But make no mistake, there’s a coup attempt in progress in Fiji, even if its foot soldiers are in the bureaucracy and courts rather than the military. The political history of this Pacific archipelago has been so regularly punctuated by the non-peaceful transfer of power that the term ‘coup culture’ has been created to explain the cancer that has corrupted Fijian democracy for decades. Four recognised coups have occurred in Fiji since its independence in 1970. Three of them were staged by the Fijian military—April and September 1987, both led by Sitiveni Rabuka, and December 2006, led by Frank Bainimarama. The fourth, in May 2000, was a hybrid civilian–military coup led initially by George Speight. Less well appreciated is that there was an earlier, non-violent coup in March 1977. It was labelled a constitutional crisis but was nonetheless a coup to prevent the peaceful transfer of power. Today, arguably, that event is serving as the template for a fresh attempt to hijack the electorate’s vote for change in government. When the National Federation Party (NFP) won 26 of the 52 seats in the 1977 general election, it expected to form government with the support of an independent member of parliament. However, the governor-general, Ratu Sir George Cakobau, claimed to be unpersuaded that NFP leader Siddiq Koya could form a stable majority. He reappointed the defeated Alliance Party leader, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, as prime minister. The Alliance Party moved a motion of confidence in Mara when parliament met to test his support. The motion was defeated and Cakobau dissolved the parliament and issued writs for new elections in September. The Alliance Party won handily after the NPF leadership broke into two factions—the flower and dove—that opposed each other in the election. In 1977, the head of state had the key institutional role. The same is true now. Just as Cakobau declined to call on Koya to form a ministry quickly after the election, President Wiliame Katonivere has been slow to issue a proclamation to call the parliament into session. His delay is constitutionality significant on two scores. The first is that the power of delay (up to 14 days after the return of the writs) gives the outgoing FijiFirst government time to destabilise or legally challenge the tripartite coalition—comprising the NFP, the People’s Alliance Party (PAP) and the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA)—by questioning whether it actually can muster the numbers to govern or, indeed, by breaking up the capacity of the coalition to hold together. The delay also plays into formal parliamentary processes. Since no party received more than 50% of the vote in this month’s general election, the constitution requires a vote in parliament to determine who the parliament will accept as prime minister. So long as the parliament isn’t called into session, that vote can’t be held. However, the fortnight window for the president to call the parliament into session is absolute. The second element of the 1977 playbook was to foment and amplify divisions within the NFP to sustain the line that an NFP government would be incapable of guaranteeing supply. This white-anting is occurring both within SODELPA and through bureaucratic pressure. SODELPA’s general-secretary, Lenaitasi Duru, resigned his post after claiming that the internal vote to join the PAP–NFP coalition was invalid due to unspecified anomies in the way it was conducted. Duru wrote to Katonivere to ask him not to call parliament into session as scheduled. He also approached the registrar of political parties, Mohammed Saneem. Saneem responded by requiring the SODELPA management board to revisit the vote to join the PAP and NFP in forming the governing coalition. SODELPA’s vice president, Anare Jale, expressed a belief that the board would reconfirm its original decision. This reaffirmation has now been given, with the management board repeating its original decision. Nonetheless, the delay caused by compelling the SODELPA board to recast the vote gave FijiFirst’s general-secretary and Fiji’s attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the opportunity to charge that Jale had failed to be completely honest with FijiFirst’s initial bid to SODELPA. The second pitch was allowed, but it didn’t change SODELPA’s decision. The risk to the formation of a Rabuka-led government now shifts to the three elected SODELPA members and the possibility that they won’t honour the party’s pledges of support to the PAP–NFP coalition. That risk has become greater or, at least, less uncertain because of an ambiguity in constitutional language. Depending on how that ambiguity is resolved, there may be no way of enforcing the constitutional controls over parliamentary party members. The 2013 constitution provides for an MP to be expelled from parliament for voting against the party’s direction when the ‘leader and the secretary of the political party’ notify the speaker of the parliament of the lapse. The precise definition of these officeholders isn’t clear, especially with regard to whether the party leader is the parliamentary leader or the machine wing leader. It appears from media reports that SODELPA party leader Viliame Gavoka’s position became vacant under the party constitution, and Duru claims it will remain vacant until the party holds its annual general meeting in 2024. Now that Duru has resigned, it appears that SODELPA is without an official secretary, though that depends on when his resignation becomes effective (he has argued that it doesn’t take effect for 30 days). The celebrators who believed that the way ahead for a new government was clear two days ago are now facing the reality that their expectations may be dashed on the rocks of political manipulation and obstruction. Despite the best efforts of FijiFirst to frustrate the transfer of power, it can’t be certain that its efforts will succeed. Nor can it be certain that it will be the recipient of a stable majority if the tripartite coalition collapses. It might be satisfied with the fallback of a second election à la the 1977 crisis, but it can’t count on winning in a new poll. The decision by Bainimarama’s allies in defence and national security to call on the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to assist the police with maintaining security and stability serves as a reminder that if 1977 proves not to be the right template to prevent a peaceful transfer of power, there are other models.