Aus­tralia launches $1.5B Pa­cific fund to counter China

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

AUS­TRALIA will of­fer Pa­cific coun­tries up to AU$3 bil­lion ($2.18 bil­lion) in grants and cheap loans to build in­fra­struc­ture, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said yes­ter­day, as Can­berra seeks to counter China’s ris­ing in­flu­ence in the re­gion. Aus­tralia and China have been vy­ing for in­flu­ence in sparsely pop­u­lated Pa­cific is­land coun­tries that con­trol vast swathes of re­source-rich oceans. China has spent $1.3 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.

“The gov­ern­ment I have the priv­i­lege to lead, is re­turn­ing the Pa­cific to where it should be; front and cen­ter,” Mor­ri­son said in a speech an­nounc­ing the new Pa­cific ini­tia­tive. “This is our patch. This is our part of the world.”

Mor­ri­son said Aus­tralia will cre­ate a AU$2 bil­lion in­fra­struc­ture fund that will in­vest in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, en­ergy, trans­port, wa­ter projects. Aus­tralia will also give an ad­di­tional AU$1 bil­lion to its fi­nanc­ing arm, which of­fers loans to pri­vate com­pa­nies un­able to se­cure funds from tra­di­tional lenders, to in­vest in the Pa­cific. Mor­ri­son said Aus­tralia would also ex­pand its diplo­matic pres­ence in the Pa­cific, post­ing staff to Palau, the Mar­shall Is­lands, French Poly­ne­sia, Niue and the Cook Is­lands. Aus­tralia said it will also strengthen de­fense and se­cu­rity ties with Pa­cific is­lands through new joint ex­er­cises and train­ing.

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