Kiribati president upbeat on conference, Taiwan | Pacific Beat

Kiribati president upbeat on conference, Taiwan

Kiribati president upbeat on conference, Taiwan

Updated 15 February 2012, 13:24 AEDT

Kiribati will convene an international climate change conference in October.

President Anote Tong says it is necessary because of the disappointing outcomes from the climate change conferences in Bonn and Copenhagen.

The president believes solutions to damage caused by emissions from industrialised nations need to be found sooner rather than later.

Before talking in more detail about the October meeting, Geraldine Coutts spoke with President Tong about the outcome of his recent visit to Taiwan.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: President Anote Tong of Kiribti

TONG: Yes, it's a state visit at the invitation of President Ma and of course we discussed bilateral issues. There were some programs that we share which we took the opportunity to discuss. We also touched on some of the issues that are of course and I think one thing that I do applaud is the current government's position on cross-strait relations which is something which we have no problem with and I think thats being viewed as the concern, there is dollar diplomacy and I think it was made absolutely clear during my visit and during our discussions that that should not be the case.

COUTTS: There have again been accusations over a long period of cheque book diplomacy between Taiwan and China and that Kiribati and other Pacific countries have been on the receiving end of that. You're saying that now doesn't exist?

TONG: No, I think we must not say that just because we choose to have relations with one country. I think we enjoy bilateral relations with quite a number of countries who are quite crucial development partners. We have the same with Australia and New Zealand, the European Union. We do enjoy that and we are grateful for the partnership. You do engage in relations, because it is in your national interest and I think all countries do that, whether its trade, whether it is whatever, and so the allegation I think that this is dollar diplomacy and that is not, I think it's a bit of an error in their position I believe.

COUTTS: And again another press report that has come out since you have been in Taiwan and met with President Ma is that there seems to be a softening of approach now and Taiwan doesn't mind if countries like Kiribati have also an artificial or diplomatic relationship with China?

TONG: Well, that has always been our position. The door remains opened if China should wish to re-engage again and I think that has always been really clear and I think the position has always been on the part of China not to suspend relations. It has never been our decision. We have never reciprocated suspension of relations. We welcome the move by Taiwan and we are actually engaging in commercial relations with companies from China, so this is welcome. We welcome this, it's good

COUTTS: What kind of companies in China?

TONG: With the fishing industry.

COUTTS: You had this meeting in Taiwan with President Ma. Did you sign off on any specific programs or allocations of money for programs? I understand there's roads and education?

TONG: We took out a loan for 15 million dollars to upgrade our international airport in Kiribati, so that was a loan that we signed and so that was possibly the major program that was the feature of my visit.

COUTTS: Now with the meetings in Copenhagen and Bonn, the Pacific has had its say and have had a very high profile. But there is a feeling now that the progress that has been made is questionable. How do you see that as far as Kiribati is concerned?

TONG: Yes, you will understand, we are one of the most vulnerable, we, I think the problems certainly for us is more immediate than it would be for the country, so we see the great urgency of dealing to deal with this as soon as possible. The rate of progress has been very disappointing. We would like faster progress, in fact better progress. What happened at Copenhagen was disappointing, but at the same time we understand that trying to get almost 200 countries to agree is not easy. But I think at the same time there is scope for doing that and I think we hope that the leading up to Mexico, more activity will take place, so that we can take it step by step. We ourselves are convening a climate change conference in October, where we hope to have the vulnerable countries as well as the countries who have taken the very opposite side of the argument. I think we want to work out the differences. We want to be able to sit down and talk, create understanding, rather than remain suspicious and not interact and not discuss the problem.

COUTTS: Now what reaction did you have to Australia's decision, the Rudd Government's decision to suspend its ETS for now?

TONG: We were a little disappointed, I think, but we are hopeful that in the end we will all understand that we do need to address the issue of climate change, whether now or later it has got to be addressed and putting it off is just delaying what is inevitable.

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