PM can hold his head high in talks with New Zealand’s John Key

Fiji Sun - - Comment - JY­OTI PRAT­I­BHA Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­

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

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