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By Rocky Issou

PAPUA New Guinea and Fiji have consolidated their stand to unite and speak on behalf of the smaller island countries of the Pacific ahead of the meetings with India and the United States today.

Issues to take centre-stage during these discussions will be investment and trade in the region, climate change mitigation, environment and conservation, and labour mobility and employment. Prime Minister James Marape affirmed this position with Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka in Port Moresby at a bi-lateral meeting in Port Moresby last Friday.

Prime Minister Marape said when the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) sits tomorrow, PNG and Fiji would be united in one voice, advocating for the Small Island Countries of the Pacific on pressing issues common in the Pacific and a similar position will be made to US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who is now stepping in for President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Marape said: “As the elder leader of the Pacific, we invite Prime Minister Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka to make a bold statement at the meeting with India on Monday, and to the US Secretary of State after that.

“PNG, Fiji and all our smaller Pacific countries will be going in with one mind to meet the leaders of these two nations.”

Marape added that India is an emerging global powerhouse, coming out from a similar colonial past, with a big carbon footprint and global responsibility. It also has a big market.

“For us, the Pacific takes up a huge part of the world in terms of space. One cannot go to India without going through the Pacific; one cannot go to America without passing through the Pacific – whether on sea or by air. We might be small in landmass, but in terms of space, we occupy a substantial part of the world. “Within this, we have custodial rights.

Our fish and marine resources need to be protected from exploitation and properly developed; our land is subjected to the effects of climate change therefore victimizing us. These are the issues we will put straight on the table – without fear,” said Marape.

Marape further said his own conversation with the United States would be similar as in the past, where the US would be asked once more to seriously consider the downstream processing of Pacific tuna and other marine resources in the Pacific to return greater benefits to Pacific people, including Papua New Guinea. He once more reiterated PNG’s foreign policy stance which he said continues to be “Friend to all: Enemy to none.

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