Samoa signs bilateral agreement with China amid Beijing’s Pacific push
- The Samoan government said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Samoan PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa met and discussed ‘climate change, the pandemic, and peace and security’
- China will continue to provide infrastructural development support to various Samoan sectors and there would be a new framework for future projects ‘to be determined and mutually agreed’
The deal’s details are unclear, coming midway through a Chinese delegation’s eight-nation trip – but an earlier leaked draft agreement sent to several Pacific countries outlined plans to expand security and economic engagement. The mission has prompted Western leaders to urge regional counterparts to spurn any Chinese attempt to extend its security reach across the region.
A press release from the Samoan government confirmed that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa had met and discussed “climate change, the pandemic and peace and security”.
Local media were invited to witness the signing of a deal, but no questions were taken.
The statement said that China would continue to provide infrastructural development support to various Samoan sectors and there would be a new framework for future projects “to be determined and mutually agreed”.
“Samoa and the People’s Republic of China will continue to pursue greater collaboration that will deliver on joint interests and commitments,” the release said.
The Chinese delegation has already visited the Solomon Islands and Kiribati this week.
It arrived in Samoa on Friday night and was to depart for Fiji on Saturday afternoon, with other stops expected to be Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.
At the first stop in Honiara on Thursday, Wang lashed out at “smears and attacks” against the security pact already signed with the Solomon Islands.
“We have expressed our concerns publicly about the security agreement,” Wong told reporters in the capital of Suva.
“As do other Pacific islands, we think there are consequences. We think that it’s important that the security of the region be determined by the region. And historically, that has been the case. And we think that is a good thing.”
Fiji on Friday said it would join the US’ new economic initiative, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), making it the first Pacific Island country to do so, even as few details about the pact are known.
“A close partner to the United States and a leader in the region, Fiji will add vital value and perspective to IPEF, including on our efforts to tackle the climate crisis and build a clean economy that creates good paying jobs,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
Biden launched the IPEF earlier this week during his first trip to Asia, in a bid to assert US leadership. The framework is the most significant US effort to engage Asia on economic matters since former President Donald Trump in 2017 withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiated under the Obama administration.
“If it’s all about optics, then what you actually want is a lot of members, a lot of potential members,” said Deborah Elms, Singapore-based executive director of the Asian Trade Centre. “And because it’s the clean economy you could have pulled in, I would imagine, half of the Pacific island nations.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg