FIJI URGED TO PURSUE CHINESE OVERTURES

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 6) - Fiji envoy to China Jeremaia Waqanisau has urged the Fiji government to take full advantage of an offer by the Chinese to train government officials from the Pacific region.

Waqanisau said he had called on stakeholders to change their attitude towards China given that countries like Australia and New Zealand were held in higher regard in the past.

Opening the China-Pacific Island Economic Development and Cooperation Forum at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa yesterday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China would provide training to 2,000 government officials and technical staff from Pacific Island countries over the next three years.

Jiabao said China adhered to the path of peaceful development and pursued a policy of peace, development and cooperation in international affairs.

He said China was committed to the promotion of peace and development through cooperation and would continue to strengthen its friendship and cooperation with Pacific Island countries.

Waqanisau said the offer presented by China was something Fiji had to fully exploit.

"Unfortunately, it still remains a tendency for many Pacific Island nations to look at China as a country that produces criminals, which apparently, are very isolated cases," said Waqanisau. "Any criminal case here in Fiji involving one or two Chinese citizens, then the tendency is to look at China from that standpoint, which is not fair because of one isolated incident. These are the kinds of syndromes the people of the Pacific and other parts of the world have to take out."

Waqanisau said while training institutions in China had been open to Fiji and other Pacific Island nations many years ago, "the initiative is hardly taken advantage of."

He said for example, every year Fiji only used up 20 per cent of the scholarship allocations by China while the remaining 80 percent was left un-utilized.

The benefits of such an offer for every Pacific Island nation was enormous because in China there were tertiary institutions for every specific field like tourism, sports, and minerals, he said.

He said even though Fiji was the first Pacific Island nation to recognize China as an ally, only the Ministry of Agriculture seems to have taken advantage of the huge opportunities that China provides.

He said officials from the ministry have been sent to China for technical and on the job training.

Waqanisau said it was about time that Fiji took up the offer, as we have been very slow in utilizing the opportunities presented by China.

April 7, 2006

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