Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has warned Australia must do more if it wants a stronger relationship with the Pacific, as the two countries signed a partnership agreement covering economic, security, and community ties.
Mr Bainimarama and Prime Minister Scott Morrison signed the Vuvale Partnership in Canberra on Monday, as the pair met for a formal bilateral meeting.
“Vuvale” means “family” in Fijian, with Mr Morrison regularly referring to “family” when describing the relationship between Australia and Fiji.
But Mr Bainimarama said the relationship between the governments had not yet reached that level.
“For Fijians, the bonds that bind families together are sacred, unbreakable connections,” he said.[It] demands a level of understanding hereto [sic] unprecedented in the relations between our governments.”
The Fijian PM’s comments come amid Mr Morrison’s attempts to shore up Australia’s influence in the region to counter China’s growing presence in the Pacific.
However, Mr Morrison’s pledge to “step up” Australia’s engagement with the Pacific floundered at a meeting of Pacific leaders in Tuvalu last month.