Pacific $2b fund in foreign policy shift

Evarado Alatorre
Noviembre 9, 2018

A $2 billion fund will be created for infrastructure investment in the Pacific as Scott Morrison puts Australia's island nation neighbours at the centre of foreign policy.

In a major speech at the Townsville army barracks, the Prime Minister is expected to commit to putting the Pacific back at the centre of our foreign policy, saying he wants to see a "southwest Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically, and sovereign politically".

Mr Morrison is also expected to announce a new defence force mobile training team, annual meetings of defence, police, and border security chiefs, and new diplomatic posts in a number of Pacific countries.

China has spent US$1.3 billion (RM5.4 billion) on concessional loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific's second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

In speech notes supplied by his office, Mr Morrison will bluntly concede Australia has, in the past, taken the Pacific "for granted".

"This $2 billion infrastructure initiative will significantly boost Australia's support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor Leste", he said.

Mr Morrison will host a barbecue for Pacific leaders at the APEC conference in Port Moresby next weekend.

A further $US700 million will go to state export financing agency Efic, to support Australian businesses operating in the Pacific.

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Mr Morrison will today pledge to open diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands, and strengthen defence cooperation in the region.

Mr Morrison will also speak to commercial TV networks about getting more Australian TV programming and sport available in Pacific countries.

To counter, Morrison plans to announce that Australia will renew its focus on the Pacific, primarily through a new infrastructure fund.

"It's where Australia can make the biggest difference in world affairs".

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne will on Thursday meet her Chinese counterpart in Beijing, the first visit by a senior Canberra in two years after bilateral relations soured.

There will also be new military sporting engagements and a new sports programme, strengthening regional ties with Australia.

Earlier this month, Australia said it would help PNG develop a naval base, beating out China as a possible partner for the port development.

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