Suva, Fiji (March 20, 2017) – Strengthening relations and exploring future partnerships for sustainable development between Forum island countries and China, are the focus of a visit this week by a Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat delegation led by the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor. [restrict]

The five-day visit to Beijing, Guangzhou and Hainan Province will see the delegation meet with the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Wang Yi, the Guangdong Provincial Government, and attend the prestigious Boao Forum for Asia.

“China is a valued partner of the Pacific region and we look forward to a deeper and more dynamic relationship into the future,” said the Secretary General.  “We want to learn more about how China is addressing issues relating to climate change and economic development. Issues that we are also facing in the Pacific”.

“Increasingly we have seen China taking a leadership role in addressing climate change and, given the Pacific’s vulnerability, we are grateful for that leadership. We hope China continues this role as the world implements the bold initiatives of the Paris Agreement.

“As ocean States we are naturally very interested in knowing more about the opportunities that rest within the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and more broadly President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.’

Dame Meg said the Pacific’s close relations with China have assisted the region in progressing key issues on the international stage. “An example is China’s commitment to work with Forum countries, through the World Bank, to expand the definition of “fragility” to include “vulnerability to climate change, and economic, equity, access, geographical and environmental challenges”.

The Secretary General also expressed appreciation for the enduring partnerships between China and the Forum island countries saying, “China is a great friend to the region and we would like to express our gratitude for the ongoing support with scholarships. More than 80 students have completed undergraduate or post graduate studies through the China-Pacific Islands Forum scholarships programme since it began in 2008.”

The Pacific Trade and Investment Commissioner in Beijing, David Morris, said the visit was an important opportunity to demonstrate and build on the strong relationship that exists between Forum countries and China.

“Those relationships go back hundreds of years. There have been people to people links for a long time and now there are new opportunities to cooperate. We are working to strengthen the economic engagement between what is becoming the world’s largest trading economy, the world’s largest source of tourists, and our countries of the Pacific Islands who are looking to develop.

“We are working to strengthen sustainable development partnerships between China and the Pacific Islands.”

Trade statistics released in 2016 by Pacific Islands Trade & Invest China showed that the fourteen Forum Island Countries of the Pacific Islands Forum exported $2.5 billion worth of goods to China in 2015, up from $2 billion in 2014. China’s exports to the Forum Island Countries doubled from $2.5 billion in 2014 to $5 billion in 2015.

The visit ends March 25th. [restrict]