Proposed China-Pacific Multilateral Agreement deeply concerning

The proposed multilateral agreement between China and the ten Pacific Island countries it has diplomatic relations with is deeply concerning, National’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.

“It’s been clear for some time that China is increasing its presence in the Pacific, but this draft agreement is an extremely ambitious development that shows China’s desire to deepen its involvement in Pacific affairs, from security and law enforcement right through to health and education.

“The insistence that Pacific countries adhere to the United Nations-led international system could effectively bind Pacific countries into a multilateral system that removes their autonomy that sovereign governments should expect to exercise in their own right.

“New Zealand is part of the Pacific, with close ties to the rest of our region. As a larger player, we should be at the forefront of addressing any issues our Pacific neighbours face, including humanitarian.  

“In 2020/21, New Zealand contributed $489 million to the Pacific and Australia over AUD$1 billion in aid, and this agreement falls far short of supplanting our commitment.

“The fact that some Pacific Island countries will consider this agreement raises questions over how the New Zealand-Pacific relationship appears to have broken down in recent years. That China feels emboldened to propose such an extensive agreement is a sign that competition in our region is escalating, and it’s not clear New Zealand is part of the dialogue on meeting the needs of Pacific Island countries.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta earlier this month called the China-Solomon Islands agreement evidence of a ‘relationship failure’ for New Zealand and the Solomons. This new agreement may be a relationship catastrophe for New Zealand and the rest of our Pacific neighbours.

“The Minister needs to urgently explain what she and this Government will do to ensure New Zealand’s long commitment to the Pacific is not swept aside under her watch.”