May 1, 2009
Japan’s Foreign Minister, Hirofumi Nakasone, is promoting
policies that would bring a mix of official and private enterprise
development assistance to Pacific islands.
This official Japanese hint of a mixed approach coincides
with New Zealand’s official interest in sustainable
Pacific economic development, announced by NZ Foreign Minister
McCully Friday, May 01, 2009, and messages coming out of other
Pacific Islands Forum countries.
“As indicated prior to the election, National has long
held concerns about the effectiveness of New Zealand’s
aid spending,” Mr McCully said.
“Following a review process, the government has decided
to change the mandate of NZAID, the government’s aid
agency, to focus on sustainable economic growth.
“Lifting people out of poverty depends directly on
increasing economic growth and strengthening trade. No country
in the world has achieved one without the other.
“The new mandate also puts the Pacific at the forefront
of our efforts, with a greater share of the budget, although
not to the total exclusion of other regions.
“Given that the objective of our aid should be to reverse
the negative trends we see in the Pacific, current policies
are clearly failing. Our money has generally done little to
build strong economies providing jobs and the promise of a
brighter future” Mr McCully said.
He seeks “a greater sense of alignment with our overall
foreign policy goals. Most important in this respect will
be our ability to align aid policy with trade policy within
For that reason, Trade Minister Tim Groser and Mr McCully
have adopted a joint strategy, along with their Australian
counterparts, “”designed to achieve sustainable
economic growth in the Pacific through an alignment of trade
and aid policies”.
The two New Zealand ministers met jointly with those Australian
counterparts a few weeks ago and will host a meeting of Pacific
trade ministers in the coming weeks in order to make progress.
The Japanese thinking also coincides with Tongan and New
Zealand business interest in a joint venture scheme reminiscent
of a past New Zealand Pacific Islands Industrial Development
scheme. The Japanese thinking was revealed during Mr Nakasone’s
brief visit to New Zealand late last month.
Mr Nakasone, who worked previously in business assignments
that led him to spend several months in New Zealand timber
industry circles based around the Hawkes Bay, held ministerial
talks on 29 April 2009 with Prime Minister Key and Foreign
Minister Murray McCully. The Wellington talks included issues
to come up at the 22-25 May fifth triennial Japanese meeting
of Pacific leaders, in Hokkaido.
The new development assistance package being designed by
the Japanese government for the Pacific Islands was revealed
in an exclusive briefing for Asia Pacific Economic News (APEN)
by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy press secretary
Yasuhiro Kawamura who was travelling with Mr Nakasone.
Japanese Prime Minister Aso recently announced (though muted
because the ASEAN conference in Thailand was cancelled) the
initiative to invest $US20 billion to Asean, Pacific Island
and SE Asian countries towards infrastructure, low carbon
initiatives, education and more with significant emphasis
on Pacific islands as recipients.
Mr Kawamura later explained that details of the Pacific island
allocation were not final adding that one of the three planks
of the upcoming Pacific leaders Hokkaido meeting (or Palm
5) will be overcoming the vulnerability of the current global
He said the Pacific islands region is vulnerable, and needs
human security, particularly in health, water supply and education.
Japan is scheduled to double its Official Development Assistance
(ODA) for Africa in four years while in Asia the ODA and other
financing will amount to $US200 million.
“For the Pacific islands we need to come up with more
concrete proposals, not necessarily limited to ODA,”
Meanwhile, Mr Kawamura said the Palm 5 conference is going
ahead and “while all past nations which attended previous
meetings have been invited, the status of Fiji is still being
He explained that the Palm 5 conference would be mainly concerned
with broader environmental and financial issues rather than
individual countries. The three key objectives of the upcoming
Palm5 meeting are:
- Creating a Pacific environmental community with region-wide
cooperation in areas such as climate change and finding ways
for Pacific island communities to strengthen their own efforts;
- Overcoming vulnerabilities and promoting particularly in
such areas as health, water supplies and education; and
- People-to-people exchanges (the Kizuna Plan) with Japan.
APEN alerted Mr Kawamura that NZ’s National Party foreign
minister favoured policies leading to sustainable Pacific
economic development. Mr Kawamura said he would investigate
Japan’s approach and communicate further on this issue.
In the past Japan used its summit meetings for general relationship
building, but now it recognises the sustainability challenge.
“We now need to see what the public and private sectors
can do,” Mr Kawamura said. “Compare Japan’s
approach in Asia. The government previously focused exclusively
on ODA, but now it includes the private sector.”
Mike Regan, APEN Parliamentary Press Gallery correspondent,
also contributed to this report.