Infrastructure investment to restore Australian influence in south-west Pacific

12 Nov 18

Australia’s prime minister has announced a multi-billion-dollar fund for Pacific island nations to build infrastructure.

The move is seen as an attempt to counter China’s influence in the region, following revelations that the Asian mega economy has invested A$1.3bn in the region since 2011, making it the second largest donor after Australia.

Delivering a speech, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said he aimed to restore Pacific to the “front and centre” of Australia’s foreign outlook. He added that he would offer A$2bn ($1.45bn) in loans and grants to strengthen relationships.

A Chinese diplomat has said the two countries were “not rivals”, after Australian foreign minister Marise Payne visited Beijing this week. 

Morrison said in his announcement: “Australia cannot take its influence in the south-west Pacific for granted.

“I think, sadly, too often we have. This is our patch. This is where we have special responsibilities.”

The fund will be used for telecommunications, energy and transport infrastructure projects, the prime minister suggested.

He added that he would ask the Australian parliament to give another A$1bn in regional investment, providing “national benefit”.

New diplomatic missions would also begin in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands, Morrison said.

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