New Zealand is calling for constructive engagement and increased coordination from international partners who have an interest in supporting the Pacific.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says there is potential to “provide fresh energy, support and coordination for the region’s priorities.”
This includes the implementation of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, she told a meeting between United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and Partners for the Blue Pacific initiative in New York on Friday.
Mahuta emphasised the need to recognise the Pacific Islands Forum as the pre-eminent organisation in the region.
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The Blue Pacific initiative was formed in June and includes New Zealand, Australia, US, Japan and the United Kingdom with India having an observer status in the group.
Friday’s meeting came ahead of next week’s historic conference when President Joe Biden hosts Pacific leaders in the White House.
The 2050 Strategy was launched during the Forum leaders’ conference in Fiji in July, which Mahuta and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended.
NZ’s Ambassador to the US, Bede Corry, also attended Blinken’s summit.
Mahuta told the meeting that New Zealand has been engaged with the Blue Pacific concept from the outset.
“One of the goals of the Blue Pacific initiative is to ensure Pacific regionalism is the focus, and that support for the Pacific Islands Forum is shared across partner governments,” she said.
“Aotearoa New Zealand has always placed great store on the importance of the ‘Pacific voice’ and today’s meeting was an opportunity to hear first-hand from Pacific leaders, to hear directly about their concerns, priorities and aspirations.
”Aotearoa New Zealand will continue to operate consistently with the spirit of today’s meeting: to listen, understand and coordinate our individual and collective responses, to ensure our actions reflect Pacific needs and concerns, and to support the region to achieve the goals we have set out in the Forum’s recently agreed 2050 Strategy,” Mahuta said.
Blinken also urged the group to focus on climate change and connectivity amid tensions with China.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has been questioned on her engagement with Pacific Island nations, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s dealmaking trip across the region continues.
The US-China competition for influence in the Pacific has intensified this year after Beijing signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands.
Blinken said the US would step up its engagement with the Pacific, following commitments from US Vice President Kamala Harris on the opening of new embassies and financial assistance to fisheries’ and environmental programmes in the region.
The Partners of the Blue Pacific also welcomed Germany and Canada’s increased focus and commitment to genuine partnership with the Pacific after both countries announced their intent to join the group.
“This included ongoing engagement and consultation with the PIF and respect for the concept of Pacific regionalism and related regional mechanisms, sovereignty, transparency, accountability, and we are committed to being led and guided by the Pacific islands,” the PBP said in a statement.
Discussions also centred on climate change resilience, adaptation and disasters; secure and resilient technology and connectivity; protection of the ocean and environment, people centred development; resources and economic development and the political leadership and regionalism.
The meeting included representatives from Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Canada, France, Germany, India, South Korea, and the Pacific Islands Forum, and the European Union, both as observers.