China suffers setback as Pacific countries turn down broad deal – Times of India

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China’s plan to sign a sweeping trade and security deal with ten Pacific countries was met with backlash as some of them expressed concerns about specific elements in the proposal, Australia’s ABC News reported.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the Pacific island nations are united in their approach. “We put consensus among our countries first in any discussion of new regional agreements,” he said during a news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday.
Beijing’s ambassador to Fiji, Qian Bo, told the news channel that China will release a position paper after Wang ended his visit to the region on Saturday, adding that his country “would never impose anything on other countries”.
There were some signs that Pacific countries were uncomfortable with China expanding its role in the region. Micronesian President David Panuelo had criticized China’s plans and warned they could spark a Cold War, ABC reported. Fiji joined the US in a comprehensive economic initiative last week, making it the first nation in the Pacific to do so. It then signed three economic pacts with China on Monday, proof that Pacific countries can seek ways to balance relations with the world’s two largest economies.
Wang’s 10-day trip to the region is seen as a sign of Beijing’s increasing competition with the US and Australia to exert influence there. Earlier on Monday, he held a summit in Suva, Fiji, with top diplomats from the countries to discuss issues such as trade, police and cybersecurity, ABC said earlier, citing documents explaining Beijing’s plans.
The documents show that China proposed ideas such as a free trade agreement and a special envoy to the Pacific countries, and diplomats from the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Niue and Federated States of Micronesia would attend.
Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a statement to the summit saying his country was ready to work with the countries to create a closer community, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.
Some countries seem to be making progress with limited deals with China, though the details are vague. There have been reports in recent days that Samoa has signed an agreement for “more cooperation”, including on infrastructure projects.
Also, communist party-backed Global Times ambassador David Teaabo said China and Kiribati would sign 10 memorandums of understanding on “development cooperation” during Wang’s trip, although Friday’s report did not provide details.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian avoided answering questions about any agreements with Kiribati and Samoa during a regular press conference on Monday. He added that issues discussed at the summit were subject to “an ongoing process,” indicating Beijing may still seek to move forward with a sweeping agreement with the Pacific islands.
bigger swing
Monday’s summit underscores Beijing’s desire for greater power in a region traditionally dominated by Australia and the US. China’s push started with the Solomon Islands, which signed a security deal in April, and over the weekend they added a deal with the aviation, tourism and business sectors. China has previously denied reports that it plans to build a naval base in the Solomon Islands.
Still, the measures have set off alarm bells in Australia, with Foreign Secretary Penny Wong visiting Fiji within days of her Labor party coming to power and promising that Canberra’s aid to Pacific countries would not come “with commitments”. .
It has also led to increased competition between China and the US. Last week, Fiji said it would sign President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which aims to affirm Washington’s leadership in Asia.
Over the weekend, Wang hit back at a policy speech by Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlining how the US will try to influence China’s behavior, calling Washington’s views on his nation “seriously miscalibrated.”
Countries could engage in “fair competition”, but it must not become “cruel,” Wang said, adding that ties between China and the US were “at an important crossroads” and that it was up to Washington to ensure that the correct choice was made.





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