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Watered down meetings for Pacific leaders

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Solomon Islands Prime Minster concludes his second overseas trip in a week as strategic competition heightens

It’s hard to believe a time when leaders from the Pacific jumped on board their emissions-spurting jets to meet with the U.S. President.

But last week 12 leaders from across the Pacific gathered in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden in the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit.

“We honoured the history and values that our nations share and expanded our cooperation on key areas that will benefit our people for years to come,” President Biden said.

What was the meeting about?

Leaders from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia were among the guests at the summit.

They discussed maritime security, climate change, and economic development.

Of course, climate change is a crucial issue for these Pacific Island states, many of which are low-lying and vulnerable to the impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels.

These countries are already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels.

There are also long-term climate variables, which are expected to occur in the future.

The U.S. believes the summit was a platform to “reaffirm its commitment to the Pacific region” and “strengthen its relationships”.

But it was only a matter of time before the climate guise was dropped.

“The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security, and the security of the Pacific Islands.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

Security is the key word here, because President Biden’s definition of this, may differ from the low-lying states of the Pacific.

Why was it important?

One word: China. When Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi blitzed through 10 Pacific countries earlier in the year, he had a big deal on his mind: a regional security pact.

“China practices the diplomatic principle of equality among all countries,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Pacific sensationally declined to sign up to the sweeping deal, which included greater economic and security ties.

Wang said the Pacific region should not to be “too anxious” about Beijing’s intentions.

“China is not a newcomer, but rather an old friend with Pacific Island countries,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Solomon Islands is the key example here, especially after Prime Minster Manasseh Sogavare’s stance on the Declaration following last week’s U.S.-Pacific Partnership.

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said he watered down the initial language because it “put us in a position where we’d have to choose sides”.

He added there were “indirect” references to China, however, officials later found “common ground” and Solomon Islands signed up.

It’s no surprise Sogavare was then seen standing next to President Joe Biden for the official photo at last week’s Washington Summit. Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama was also strategically on the other side.

It was the first time in 40 years where a Fijian Prime Minister had an official audience with the U.S. President.

Why is Solomon Islands at the centre of this?

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met with Australia’s leader Anthony Albanese in Canberra today, where the pair reiterated their relationship as “proud Pacific nations”.

“I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.”

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

Australia remains Solomon Islands’ largest development partner. But Sogavare’s state visit largely remained behind closed doors, with no media opportunities scheduled.

Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election—an issue where earlier friction was caused.

Sogavare’s visit was part of Canberra’s plan to reduce friction between the two nation.

Earlier this year, Honiara signed a security alliance with Beijing. It stirred a diplomatic pot over concerns a Chinese military base could be established on the island nation.

Australia’s Prime Minister meets with Solomon Islands Prime Minister.

Australia’s then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for greater transparency over the deal.

But Sogavare lashed out at Australian officials in his nation’s parliament, asking where the same transparency was over the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the U.S.

“I learnt of the AUKUS treaty in the media. One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, the Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent.”

MANASSEH SOGAVARE, PRIME MINISTER OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

The recent Washington summit was the perfect opportunity for President Biden to roll out the red carpet and discuss his administration’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region.

On the other hand, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “will keep in close communication with all parties” and “make good use of the mechanism of China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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People investing heavily in pet health

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Australian pet owners are demonstrating their unwavering commitment to their furry companions, as revealed in a recent survey by Finder.com. The survey, conducted among 1,061 respondents, highlights that 94% of pet owners are willing to spare no expense to ensure the well-being of their pets, with some prepared to spend over $10,000.

On average, Australians are willing to invest $6,219 to safeguard their pets’ health, showcasing the deep bond between humans and animals. While 6% of respondents admit they wouldn’t spend anything on vet bills before considering euthanasia, the majority prioritise their pets’ welfare.

To assist pet owners in making informed financial decisions, Finder has announced the winners of its Pet Insurance Awards for 2024. Bow Wow Meow’s Ultimate Care policy stands out for its exceptional value, offering extensive coverage at an affordable price point.

Highly commended policies include petinsurance.com.au’s Platinum Cover and Coles Pet Insurance, providing comprehensive protection for furry companions.

Investing in pet insurance can provide peace of mind, ensuring that pet owners are prepared for unforeseen medical emergencies without compromising their financial stability.

With policies tailored to various needs and budgets, pet owners can find the right coverage for their beloved animals.

Despite generational differences in spending habits, with Gen Z leading the pack in willingness to invest in pet health, one thing remains clear: Australians’ love for their pets is unwavering, exemplifying the cherished bond between humans and animals.

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ASEAN emerging as new global economic power?

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As global supply chains adapt to the pandemic and heightened US-China tensions, attention shifts to ASEAN’s emerging economies.

Could Vietnam and Indonesia lead ASEAN into becoming a third economic powerhouse alongside China and India? Professor Tim Harcourt of UTS and The Airport Economist on Ticker weighs in.

While debates on ‘deglobalisation’ persist, the question arises: is production truly shifting or merely realigning? Geopolitical uncertainties prompt businesses to diversify their supply chains away from China, a move influenced by both politics and economics. Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia emerge as preferred destinations due to their strategic advantages and growing economies.

Australia’s recent Australian ASEAN Summit highlights the potential gains from closer ASEAN ties, given its vast population of over 640 million. What collaborative opportunities lie ahead?

Professor Harcourt’s upcoming Airport Economist ASEAN series on Ticker promises deeper insights into ASEAN’s economic landscape, revealing its potential as a significant global player.

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Investors assess geopolitical risks amidst tensions

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Amidst a backdrop of geopolitical easing, investors are reassessing their risk strategies to navigate a more tranquil global landscape.

This shift coincides with markets recalibrating expectations around potential rate cuts, resulting in a downturn in stocks.

In the tech sector, all eyes are on US earnings reports this week, particularly those of industry giants whose performance often sets the tone for market sentiment.

Additionally, anticipation mounts ahead of the release of Australian CPI data, scheduled for Wednesday, which promises insights into economic health and potential monetary policy implications.

These developments underscore the need for investors to remain vigilant and adaptable in response to evolving geopolitical and economic dynamics.

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