THE Australian Government will look at ways of allowing increased imports of kava from Vanuatu, the Australian Prime Minister said today.
During his day-long visit to Port Vila, PM Scott Morrison made it clear that the importation of kava to Australia would be on the agenda.
He said he and the Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, had discussed easing restrictions on kava during their private meeting this morning and the two countries would work together to further the issue.
“Kava is an important product for Vanuatu,” he said.
“We have already helped Vanuatu develop other markets for it around the world.
“We want to remove unnecessary obstacles to success.”
In a history-making first official visit by an Australian PM to Vanuatu, that saw the affable Australian leader dash from engagement to engagement, his mantra was clear – if Australia is going to ‘Step Up’, it meant that they had to ‘show up’.
The statement referred to Australia’s announcement last year of its so-called Pacific Step Up, which promised greater engagement with its Pacific neighbours.
It was clear from the moment of Mr Morrison’s arrival in Port Vila mid-morning to his last afternoon meeting that his presence was to be seen as highly significant and important to the Salwai Government as it moves inexorably towards the 2020 election.
He said that relations between the two countries had never been better and could only continue to be strong.
At the various engagements he addressed, Mr Morrison reiterated his country’s pledges to continue and increase Australian support for Vanuatu and its other Pacific neighbours.
“We see Pacific nations as family and friends,” he said.
“We are here because we care about the future and the prosperity of Vanuatu.”
Mr Morrison said that it was not about ‘warning off’ China, which has also been stepping up its involvement and investment in the Pacific in recent years, but about supporting Australia’s ‘Pacific family’.
“We’re here because we believe in the region – we have always been here and we will always be here.
“We don’t have to choose – we have to continue to work co-operatively together.
“For Australia and New Zealand, this is where we live!”
Mr Morrison arrived at Bauerfield with his wife Jenny and Australia’s Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Anne Ruston, and was met by Australia’s High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jenny Da Rin and Vanuatu’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu.
He was greeted by kastom chiefs and dancers from Futuna, before inspecting a guard of honour, before being driven in a motorcade to call on the President of the Republic, Pastor Obed Moses Tallis at the President’s residence.
The President and the PM exchanged gifts and drank kava together before Mr Morrison was whisked off to the Vanuatu PM’s offices for a private meeting that ran over the allotted one-hour.
At a post-meeting joint media conference, the two PMs reaffirmed the ‘strong, enduring and multifaceted relationship’ between their two countries.
“The relationship is based on common ground, shared aspirations, respect and friendship, and out shared interest in the peace and prosperity of our home, the Pacific,” they said in a joint statement.
Mr Salwai said Mr Morrison’s visit came at a critical juncture in bilateral relations.
“They have never been better and they will continue to grow,” he said.
He touched on Australia’s assistance in areas including health, justice and policing, trade, labour mobility and sport, and noted that climate resilience was one of the issues most important to Vanuatu.
Mr Morrison said Australia would continue its support for Vanuatu in areas including strengthening its national broadcaster VBTC, sport development, and infrastructure projects, as well as continuing its commitment to address climate change through programs to improve climate resilience and capability.
He stopped short of committing Australia to reducing its greenhouse emissions, instead promising that in the future, Australia would provide investment in climate resilience programs directly with Vanuatu, instead of through third parties such as international agencies.
“I would also like to acknowledge PM Salwai for his outstanding advocacy on the issue of PACER Plus,” he said, noting that the two PMs had during their talks agreed on a pilot program to promote the regional trade and economic treaty.
- More pictures of Mr Morrison’s visit at: https://vanuatuindependent.com/2019/01/16/aus-pms-colourful-visit-port-vila/