H.E. Wen Jiabao
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the Opening of the First Ministerial Conference of the
China-Pacific Island Countries
Economic Development and Cooperation Forum
April 5, 2006
Dear Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase,
Dear Prime Minister Michael Somare, President of the Pacific Islands Forum,
Heads of state and government,
Heads of the delegations, Ministers and Ambassadors,
Friends from the business community of China and the Pacific island countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure today to meet you at the opening of the First Ministerial Conference of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum to discuss ways of promoting cooperation and development. On behalf of the Chinese Government, I wish to extend warm congratulations on the opening of the First Ministerial Conference and a warm welcome to all the state leaders and participants. I also wish to thank the Fiji Government and the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum for all they have done for the opening of this conference.
The world we live in today is undergoing complex and profound changes. Steady economic growth, rapid progress in science and technology, the accelerated relocation of industries and the movement of production factors world-wide have created valuable opportunities for all countries to develop their economies. However, the widening gap between the North and the South and between the rich and the poor underscores the increasing imbalance in global development. The growing non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, transnational crimes, environmental degradation and communicable diseases present a daunting challenge for the sustainable development of developing countries, including the Pacific island countries. We must therefore work together to cope with the risks by pooling our wisdom.
China and the Pacific island countries, both being developing countries in the Asia Pacific region, are engaged in economic revitalization and social development. People in the region, facing a new international environment and increasing economic globalization, ardently hope to seize the opportunity, meet the challenge and keep abreast with the advance of the times. It is against this general backdrop that the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum is being held, with the goal of “strengthening cooperation and realizing common development” to improve the well-being of people in our respective countries. I am confident that this Forum, a landmark event in the relations between China and the Pacific island countries, will set a new model for South-South cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China firmly adheres to the path of peaceful development and pursues a policy of peace, development and cooperation in international affairs. China is committed to “promoting peace and development through cooperation”, and will continue to strengthen its friendship and cooperation with the Pacific island countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.
Politically, China maintains that all countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community and should treat each other as such. We respect the social systems of the Pacific island countries and the development strategy they have adopted based on their national conditions and their efforts in safeguarding sovereignty and independence and preserving peace and stability in the region.
Economically, China shares the joy over the achievements of the Pacific island countries and is keenly aware of the difficulties they face in their development endeavor. We are committed to implementing the UN Millennium Development Goals and helping the Pacific island countries improve capacity for self-development. China is not rich. Still, we are ready to provide assistance without any political strings attached to the Pacific island countries to the best of our ability.
In international affairs, China strives to uphold the rights and interests of the developing countries, including the Pacific island countries. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China supports the Pacific island countries in pursuing their legitimate interests regarding maritime resources exploration and protection, climate change and other issues and their right to equal participation in regional and international affairs.
As a Chinese saying puts it, “Just as distance tests a horse’s strength, time will show a person’s sincerity”. As far as China is concerned, to foster friendship and cooperation with the Pacific island countries is not a diplomatic expediency. Rather, it is a strategic decision. China has proved and will continue to prove itself to be a sincere, trustworthy and reliable friend and partner of the Pacific island countries forever.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China’s relations with the Pacific island countries have registered good progress in recent years, and our common interests have expanded. As a dialogue partner of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), China has set up the China-PIF Cooperation Fund to help finance the Pacific Plan designed to promote regional cooperation. The China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Guiding Framework that we are going to sign today is another significant step we take to enrich our cooperation. To deepen friendship and cooperation between China and the Pacific island countries is the shared desire of our peoples. It serves the fundamental and long-term interests of each side and will strengthen peace and prosperity of the region. With this goal in mind, I propose that China and the Pacific island countries work together in the following fields: conduct regular exchanges between governments, parliaments, political parties and non-governmental sectors to enhance mutual trust and understanding; strengthen consultation and coordination on major international and regional issues; accommodate each other’s interests and reinforce mutual support; and establish a new economic and trade relationship of mutual benefit that meets the needs of the island countries.
Economic ties are an integral part of the relationship between China and the Pacific island countries. Our respective economies are mutually complementary. China has funding and technical expertise. The island countries are rich in natural resources. Herein lie huge potentials for bilateral cooperation. Following the principle of “looking to the future, advancing steadily and working for mutual benefit and common development”, we can certainly make new progress in our economic cooperation and trade ties. To meet the current need of economic development of the Pacific island countries, China has decided to take the following steps:
1) To strengthen cooperation between the business communities of China and the Pacific island countries, China will provide RMB 3 billion yuan of preferential loans in the next three years to boost cooperation in resources development, agriculture, forestry, fishery, tourism, textiles and consumer products manufacturing, telecommunications and aviation and ocean shipping. The Chinese Government will also set up a special fund to encourage Chinese companies to invest in the Pacific island countries.
2) To support the Pacific island countries in developing their economy and ease their debt burden, China will give zero-tariff treatment to the majority of exports to China from the least developed countries in the region that have diplomatic ties with China. China will cancel their debts that became mature at the end of 2005 and extend by ten years the payment of debts contracted by other island countries that became mature at the end of 2005.
3) China will provide free anti-malaria medicines to the island countries affected by the disease in the next three years to help them treat malaria. China will continue to send medical teams to the island countries and conduct annual training courses for health officials, hospital managers and medical researchers of these countries. China is also ready to exchange information on bird flu prevention and control, and cooperate with the island countries in various ways in this field.
4) China will provide training to 2,000 government officials and technical staff from the island countries over the next three years to assist them in capacity building.
5) To accelerate the development of tourism of the Pacific island countries, China has decided to formally approve Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia as destinations for Chinese tourists. Thus, all the seven island countries having diplomatic ties with China are now approved tourist destinations for Chinese citizens.
6) China will provide assistance in building an earthquake or tsunami early warning and monitoring network in light of the need of the island countries to improve their capability of managing earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is here in the Pacific island countries that the world sees the first ray of the sun. Your people are warm and hospitable and you have a great potential for economic development. The bond between China and the Pacific island countries, just like the rising sun, has a bright future. We share a common vision for the future. Let’s work together to strengthen peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
In conclusion, I wish the First Ministerial Conference of China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum every success.
Thank you all!
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