Foreign policy and defense
Fiji is a nation in Melanesia. With the capital city of Suva. Fiji is small in the world but large in Oceania. Several regional institutions have or have had their base here, such as the Pacific Islands Forum (Pacific Islands Forum, PIF) and the University of the South Pacific. Many international agencies also have regional headquarters in Fiji. Australia and New Zealand are important partners, but in 2010, China became the largest foreign investor.
For the first time after independence from the British in 1970, Fiji pursued an alliance-free but in practice western-friendly policy. The ties to the UK and other Commonwealth countries were strong. However, the 1987 coups led to Fiji being suspended from the Commonwealth. After the constitutional reform in 1997, Fiji was again welcomed, now as a republic. After the coup in 2000, the country was again excluded from the decision-making body of the Commonwealth. Fiji was subject to sanctions and aid was withdrawn. After the 2001 election, Fiji again became a full member of the Commonwealth. In connection with the military coup 2006, Fiji was again suspended from the Commonwealth’s decision-making body. Financial sanctions were reinstated. In September 2009, Fiji was definitely suspended from the Commonwealth. To re-enter Fiji into the community, the Commonwealth required both a democratic constitution and parliamentary elections. Following the September 2014 election (see Current policy) Fiji regained full Commonwealth membership.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Fiji for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The regional cooperation body PIF tried to pressure Fiji’s regime to announce elections. When the Bainimarama dome leader announced in spring 2009 that elections would be held no earlier than 2014, Fiji was excluded by PIF, the first nation affected by such a measure. Fiji was not allowed to attend meetings or take part in development assistance via PIF. After the 2014 elections, Fiji was again offered a place in the PIF, but Bainimarama showed slight interest in this. Only in 2015 did Fiji again participate in PIF cooperation.
Australia and New Zealand
Up to the 2010, Australia was Fiji’s largest foreign investor and main trading partner. Following the military coup in 2006, Australia froze its diplomatic relations with Fiji and imposed sanctions. From 2012, when Fiji’s government had begun preparing for general elections, Australia agreed to gradually re-establish its diplomatic relations with the country. Following the 2014 elections, Australia liquidated its sanctions against Fiji.
Fiji’s relationship with New Zealand was long strained. In 2007, Fiji expelled New Zealand’s highest diplomat in the country after alleged involvement in Fiji’s internal affairs. In December 2008, the successor was also expelled.
From the spring of 2009, when Fiji’s constitution was repealed, Australia and New Zealand called for a broader international commitment to democratization in Fiji. Following a dispute over Sri Lankan judges hired by Bainimarama, the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors were ordered to leave Fiji within a day. Fiji also recalled its ambassador to Australia and expelled an Australian professor who was instrumental in drafting Fiji’s constitution of 1997 but who has now made abusive statements to the military regime.
In January 2010, a cautious approach was noticed between Fiji and New Zealand. The countries agreed to once again reinforce their heavily slanted embassies. Before the 2014 elections, New Zealand lifted its sanctions against Fiji and after the election, full diplomatic relations between Fiji and New Zealand were restored.
Both Australia and New Zealand provided extensive humanitarian assistance to Fiji when the islands were hit by cyclone Winston in February 2016.
Other important relationships
During Bainimarama’s tenure as Prime Minister (2007–), Fiji has strengthened ties with China, whose assistance to the country has increased sharply since the coup in 2006. The increase has to some extent compensated for the loss of traditional donors such as the EU, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In 2014, Fiji and China signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement. In November of that year, Xi Jinping became the first Chinese president to visit Fiji. During the 2010s, the two countries also signed several trade and cooperation agreements. China is now Fiji’s largest foreign investor and in 2016 accounted for almost half of its foreign investment.
The Bainimarama government has also developed closer relations with Russia during the 2010 century, not least Russia has supplied arms to Fiji.
Together with Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the French territory of New Caledonia, Fiji is part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The group aims to promote Melanesian culture but has mostly been involved in economic cooperation and is developing a free trade area. In 2009, the group’s independent members expressed support for Fiji and Bainimarama, but when Fiji took over the rotating chairmanship in July 2010, it was blocked by Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Edward Natapei. Only after Natapei had been ousted by the Fijian parliament was Fiji able to take over the presidential club in December of that year.
After the 2006 coup, the EU withdrew all non-humanitarian aid to Fiji. However, in 2010, the Union entered into a temporary agreement on economic cooperation with the military regime, and after the 2014 Fijian election, the EU abolished all aid restrictions. The following year, the EU signed an agreement that provides Fiji with extensive assistance for the development of agriculture and the judiciary.
Strong military power
The Constitution of 2013 guarantees Fiji’s military a central role in society, with an influence that goes beyond the role of defense force (see Political system). The Constitution also gives soldiers amnesty for any abuses committed in connection with the coup in 2006.
More and more of Bainimarama’s critics believe that Fiji’s democracy is threatened by an oversized and overly influential military power. Fiji has military traditions that relate to the warrior cast, Bati, who serve the chieftains and who are present in all the indigenous groups. Many batmen are still recruiting, even abroad. Since 1978, Fiji has participated in UN peacekeeping operations to an unusual degree, in proportion to the size of the country. Many Fijians have also enlisted in the British Army.
Military engagements abroad are an important source of income for Fiji. After the coup in 2006, New Zealand, among others, urged the UN to put pressure on Fiji’s military regime to implement democratic reforms by not allowing the country to participate in new UN operations. The pressure did not have any significant effect, despite the fact that the UN Security Council also rejected new Fijian efforts. Instead, the number of Fijian UN soldiers has increased since 2006. Among other things, Fijian soldiers have been deployed in the UN force Unami in Iraq and in the MFO in Egyptian Sinai as well as at the Syrian Golan Heights.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 3,200 men (2017)
The fleet: 300 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.9 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 2.9 percent (2017)