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Fiji

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Fiji country brief

Overview

The Republic of Fiji is an archipelago of 322 islands, with an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.26 million square kilometers. According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (2017), Fiji's total population is 884,887. Suva is Fiji's capital. Fiji's major languages are English, Fijian and Hindi, and its major religions are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.

Political overview

The head of government is Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe 'Frank' Bainimarama, leader of the majority party (FijiFirst) in the national legislature following the November 2018 election. Fiji's head of state, who is appointed by Parliament, is President Jioji Konrote. Opposition parties include the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), led by Sitiveni Rabuka, and the National Federation Party (NFP), led by Professor Biman Prasad.

Fiji's next election is scheduled for 2022.

Political history

Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British colony. On independence, Fiji adopted a constitutional democratic form of government based on the Westminster system. Four military-led coups (1987, 1970, 200 and 2006) has slowed Fiji’s progress to its current parliamentary democracy under constitutional framework, governed by a single 51-member Parliamentary chamber.

The last coup occurred on 5 December 2006, led by then Commodore Frank Bainimarama who was appointed Interim Prime Minister of January 2007.  The Australian Government, in concert with other countries, the UN Security Council, the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, strongly condemned the military's unconstitutional removal of Fiji's elected government.  While travel restrictions and the suspension of bilateral defence cooperation occurred, Australia maintained a substantial development assistance program to support the people of Fiji.

After significant progress towards democracy were made by Interim Prime Minister Bainimarama, then-Foreign Minister Julie Bishop lifted Australia's travel restrictions on 31 March 2014. National elections held on 17 September 2014. Seen as critical step in Fiji's peaceful transition to democracy, the Australian Government lifted all remaining restrictions and resumed its Defence Cooperation Program.  Fiji was welcomed back into the Commonwealth on 26 September 2014 and into the Pacific Islands Forum on 22 October 2014.

Bilateral relations

Australia and Fiji share a strong and enduring bilateral relationship, demonstrated by Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Bainimarama's signing of the 'Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership' on 16 September 2019. 'Vuvale' means family in Fijian. The term was chosen to reflect the depth, breadth and warmth of the relationship. The Partnership is broad-ranging and comprehensive and builds on the already strong foundations in the Fiji-Australia relationship. It paves the way for deeper security, economic and people-to-people links between both countries. It also commits Australia and Fiji to strengthening bilateral political cooperation.

Defence and security cooperation

There are longstanding connections between the Australian and Fiji military forces, including in global peacekeeping operations. Australia has committed to help redevelop Fiji's Blackrock Camp into a regional peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and police training centre. Australia will replace Fiji's two Pacific patrol boats with Guardian-class patrol boats in 2020 and 2023.

More about Regional Security in the Pacific

People-to-people links

Australia and Fiji have extensive people-to-people links. Over 3,000 Australian companies do business in Fiji and 98,000 Fijians live in Australia (see the Fiji High Commission website). Fiji is also one of the top destinations for Australians. Over 370,309 Australians visited Fiji in 2018 (see Fiji Bureau of Statistics).

There are regular two-way exchanges between Australia and Fiji, including through the Australia Awards, New Colombo Plan, Australian Volunteers Program, Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme.

On 11 October 2019, Fiji hosted the Prime Minister's XIII Rugby League matches against Australia. This was the first time these matches were played in Fiji. Under the new PacificAus Sports program, Australia supported Fiji's national netball team, the Fiji Pearls, to compete at the 2019 Netball World Cup. Australia is also sponsoring a Fiji Rugby League team, the Kaiviti Silktails, to enter the Ron Massey Cup in NSW in 2020. We will continue to deliver sports for development outcomes through the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) Program.

More about Australia's Pacific engagement

Trade and investment ties

Fiji is one of seven upper middle-income countries in the Pacific. Australia is supporting Fiji's ambitions of achieving high-income status in the coming decades.

Fiji has a relatively diverse and sophisticated economy. Economic growth has averaged at two per cent (real) since independence. Economic growth has been inclusive with consecutive governments supporting universal education, health and infrastructure.

Australia is one of Fiji's largest trade and investment partners. Two-way goods and services trade has been steadily increasing year-on-year, totaling $2.09 billion in 2017-18.

Major Australian merchandise exports to Fiji include wheat, liquefied propane and butane, meat and paper. Major Australian merchandise imports from Fiji include gold and garments.

Major Australian services exports to Fiji, and exports from Fiji, include personal travel and transport.

Australia is a major source of foreign investment for Fiji, valued at approximately $1.34 billion in 2017. Australian investment in Fiji is focused on tourism, the financial sector and manufacturing.

Fiji's investment in Australia was valued at $484 million in 2017.

For more information on the bilateral trade and investment relationship, please see the Fiji country fact sheet.

International cooperation

Australia and Fiji work closely together in multilateral forums as fellow members of the UN, World Trade Organization, Commonwealth and Pacific Islands Forum. Fiji was elected the UN Human Rights Council for the 2019-21 term, overlapping with Australia's 2018-20 term. Fiji's Presidency of the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, overseeing successful negotiations on the Rulebook and establishing the 'Talanoa Dialogue' ministerial-level review of global action on climate change. Australia provided $6 million to support Fiji's Presidency.

Development assistance

Fiji and Australia are developing a 2020-24 Aid Investment Plan. For further information on Australia's development assistance to Fiji, please see the overview of Australia's aid program to Fiji and the Fiji aid fact sheet.

More information on Australia's response to Tropical Cyclone Winston.

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