PM can hold his head high in talks with New Zealand’s John Key
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s first official visit to New Zealand could feature “rugby diplomacy”. Kiwi Prime Minister John Key is hoping that positive formal talks will take place when Mr Bainimarama arrives. As part of the visit Mr Key will host Mr Bainimarama at the All Blacks-Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test at Auckland’s Eden Park, on Saturday week. That will definitely be something on which the two rugby-loving Prime Ministers can agree. But Mr Bainimarama has always maintained that Fiji will not bow to pressure from anyone. New Zealand to some extent has understood and recently kept away from internal Fijian affairs. And, when they have attempted to interfere, Mr Bainimarama has put them in their place.
This will be Mr Bainimarama’s first official visit to New Zealand in his dual capacity as Prime Minister and our Foreign Affairs Minister. A lot of discussions on trade issues are expected to be on the cards. Mr Key, for his part, has tried to mend the fraught relationship between the two nations. And, if New Zealand media are to be believed, he is said to be ready to roll out the red carpet for Mr Bainimarama.
Interestingly, the level of enthusiasm New Zealand news media have shown to this impending visit says a lot. New Zealand media, including the likes of Barbara Dreaver, who has been banned from Fiji, have already commented widely on social media about the visit and their intention to question Mr Bainimarama during his visit. The ban on anti-Fiji journalists such as Ms Dreaver has been a point of contention for some in the New Zealand media. But, like everything else, Suva stuck to its guns and Wellington did not push the issue.
These journalists will no doubt seize the opportunity to get a few words in during this major visit. Mr Bainimarama’s previous visits to sporting events overseas have proved to be a hit and more discussions have taken place on the margins of the events. A repeat of this is expected around the Bledisloe Cup. In the media hype, let’s not forget that the PM had outlined his plans when he assumed the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs. High on his priority list is to develop and grow our international trade. While he encourages foreign investors to come to Fiji and bolster our economy, his focus will also be on increasing our export trade and reducing the trade imbalance that currently favours Australia and New Zealand. Diplomacy creates the enabling environment for trade and investment talks. Relations between Fiji and New Zealand are getting stronger despite our ban on the likes of Ms Dreaver and our position on New Zealand’s Pacific Islands Forum membership. NZ and Australia know that they can no longer keep working against Fiji. We have stamped our mark in the region and the rest of world through our contribution whether it’s climate change or global peace. We have led the way in the region as the undisputed hub. We have developed strong relations with global powers China, India and Russia. It is this strength that Mr Bainimarama takes with him in talks with Mr Key. New Zealand will treat him with respect despite the stirring by the Ms Dreaver types in their news media.
I know a lot of parents who’d love their kids to play for Samoa or Fiji but they can’t see any other real option to do that.
John Muggleton Sydney Rams coach