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Fiji rejects Chinese debt trap accusations

By ZHOU JIN | | Updated: 2019-04-26 12:09

Fijian ambassador to China Manasa Tagicakibau has rejected claims that China is setting a debt trap for Pacific Island countries, saying this is a "perception" based on some Western countries' values.

This negative thinking is because these countries' representatives did not come to China to learn about its visions and policies, the ambassador said.

Fiji considers debt levels when getting loans from China and these levels are manageable, Tagicakibau said, adding that agreements between the two countries are based on mutual understanding.

Three Fijian ministers – from the fisheries, trade and infrastructure departments – will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, marking Fiji's second time in attendance.

These are the three major areas of bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Tagicakibau said, adding that Fiji is "looking at the specific details of cooperation that they can get from the forum".

"We see this as an opportunity to learn and gain from China's experiences of growth and development while improving people's livelihoods," he said.

Fiji's development plan for the next five years focuses on promoting sustainable development and improving infrastructure, Tagicakibau said.

He further said that the forum provides the country a window to align its development strategy with BRI and to see how China can best assist Fiji.

"I really appreciate China's reform and opening-up to the world," the ambassador said,

This has provided opportunities for other countries to learn more about the way China thinks and works, he said.

Together with the Chinese government, Fiji has run a program bringing senior Fijian officials to China to learn about the county's foreign policy and vision, said Tagicakibau.

These officials can get firsthand experiences of China, and can understand that China's motives are "purely good", he said.

Fiji was the first country in the South Pacific region to establish diplomatic relations with China.

China and Fiji in November signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation under the framework of BRI, days before President Xi Jinping in Papua New Guinea met with leaders of eight Pacific Island countries that have diplomatic relations with China.

All eight countries have signed cooperation documents on building the Belt and Road with China.

China has repeated that its agreements with Pacific Island countries are open and transparent without any political conditions, do not target any third parties, and do not seek private interest or so-called spheres of influence.

China and the eight countries will jointly host the third China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in the second half of 2019.

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