Foreign relations of Tuvalu
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International organisational participation
Membership of the Commonwealth
On 1 September 2000, Tuvalu became a full member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Since its independence in 1978, Tuvalu had been a special member of the Commonwealth, but without having any voting rights in the organisation that brings together 54 countries that are mostly former colonies of Great Britain. Tuvalu's admission as a full member was approved by the members of the Commonwealth unanimously earlier in the year.
Membership of the United Nations
Tuvalu became the 189th member of the United Nations on 17 September 2000. At present, the country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations is Ambassador Aunese Makoi Simati (since 20 December 2012).
Tuvalu notably played an active role in the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, attracting media and public attention with a proposed protocol which would have imposed deeper, legally binding emission cuts, including on developing nations. Following Tuvaluan delegate Ian Fry's "tear-jerking [speech] that prompted wild applause among the crowded Copenhagen conference floor", The Australian’s political editor commented that Tuvalu was "no longer small fry on the world stage".
The United Nations designates Tuvalu as a least developed country (LDC) because of its limited potential for economic development, absence of exploitable resources and its small size and vulnerability to external economic and environmental shocks. Tuvalu participates in the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries (EIF), which was established in October 1997 under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation. In 2013 Tuvalu deferred its graduation from least developed country (LDC) status to a Developing country to 2015. Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said that this deferral was necessary to maintain access by Tuvalu to the funds provided by the United Nations's National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), as "Once Tuvalu graduates to a developed country, it will not be considered for funding assistance for climate change adaptation programmes like NAPA, which only goes to LDCs". Tuvalu had met targets so that Tuvalu was to graduate from LDC status. Prime minister, Enele Sopoaga wants the United Nations to reconsider its criteria for graduation from LDC status as not enough weight is given to the environmental plight of small island states like Tuvalu in the application of the Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI).
Regional organisational relations
Tuvalu is a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. On 18 February 2016 Tuvalu signed the Pacific Islands Development Forum Charter and formally joined the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).
Tuvalu participates in the operations of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The Tuvaluan government, the US government, and the governments of other Pacific islands, are parties to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT), entered into force in 1988. The current SPTT agreement expires on June 14, 2013. Tuvalu is one of the eight signatories of the Nauru Agreement Concerning Cooperation In The Management Of Fisheries Of Common Interest (Nauru Agreement) which collectively controls 25-30% of the world's tuna supply and approximately 60% of the western and central Pacific tuna supply . In May 2013 representatives from the United States and the Pacific Islands countries agreed to sign interim arrangement documents to extend the Multilateral Fisheries Treaty (which encompasses the South Pacific Tuna Treaty and Nauru Agreement) to confirm access to the fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific for US tuna boats for 18 months.
In 2004 Tuvalu provided police officers to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Tuvaluan Police officers served as part of RAMSI's Participating Police Force (PPF).
In November 2011, Tuvalu was one of the eight founding members of Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to cooperate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment. Tuvalu participates in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that have concerns about their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. Under the Majuro Declaration, which was signed on 5 September 2013, Tuvalu has commitment to implement power generation of 100% renewable energy (between 2013 and 2020), which is proposed to be implemented using Solar PV (95% of demand) and biodiesel (5% of demand). The feasibility of wind power generation will be considered.
In addition to its membership in the UN and the Commonwealth of Nations, outside the region, Tuvalu is a member or participant of the ACP (Lomé Convention), the Alliance of Small Island States, Asian Development Bank, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the G-77, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, the IMF, the International Maritime Organization, the International Olympic Committee, the ITU and the Universal Postal Union. While Tuvalu is not currently a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it has observer status with admission and recognition still pending.
In July 2013 Tuvalu signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the Pacific Regional Trade and Development Facility, which Facility originated in 2006, in the context of negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Pacific ACP States and the European Union. The rationale for the creation of the Facility being to improve the delivery of aid to Pacific island countries in support of the Aid-for-Trade (AfT) requirements. The Pacific ACP States are the countries in the Pacific that are signatories to the Cotonou Agreement with the European Union (which succeeded the Lomé Convention).
ACP, ADB, AOSIS, Commonwealth of Nations, FAO, IBRD (also known as the World Bank), IDA, IFRCS (observer), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WHO, World Meteorological Organization.
Tuvalu is notable for its absence of membership is several major international organisations. For example, it is one of only four UN members that do not belong to the International Civil Aviation Organization; the other three nations are Dominica, Liechtenstein (which has no airports at all), and Niue. Tuvalu is one of only 13 UN members that are not members of the International Finance Corporation and is one of only 16 UN members that have neither member nor observers of the World Trade Organization. Finally, as with many other nations in Oceania, Tuvalu is not a member of Interpol or of the International Hydrographic Organization.
Relations with Other Nations
Consulates and Honorary Consulates
Tuvalu's only full embassies are its permanent mission to the United Nations in New York, its consulate in Switzerland and its High Commission in Fiji. Tuvalu's mission to the United Nations also doubles as its embassy to the United States. Additionally, Tuvalu maintains honorary consulates in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, United States, the Taiwan (Republic of China) and the United Kingdom.
The only nation with a resident embassy in Tuvalu is the Republic of China (Taiwan). France maintains an honorary consulate in Tuvalu. Australia maintains an Australian representative office of AusAid in the country. All three of these are located in Funafuti.
Relations with Australia
Australia has strong ties with Tuvalu. The official currency of Tuvalu from 1966-1976 was the Australian dollar, which strengthens the economic bonds between the two countries in particular. Since 1976, Tuvalu began issuing its own coinage (see Tuvaluan dollar) but the country continues to use Australian banknotes as official currency, and the value of the Tuvaluan currency is directly tied to the Australian dollar. In this regard, the Tuvaluan dollar is similar to the Faroese króna's relationship to the Danish krone as the Tuvaluan dollar is not an independent currency but has been assigned an ISO 4217 currency code, although it is treated as equivalent to the Australian dollar.
In August 2009, Australia signed a Pacific Partnership for Development between Australia and Tuvalu at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders held in Cairns, Australia. Australia was (along with New Zealand and the United Kingdom) one of the three founding donating countries to the Tuvalu Trust Fund.
Although Australia has no official embassy in Tuvalu, it regularly sends government representatives to the country. For example, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles visited Tuvalu in December 2010.
Australia is a major aid donor to Tuvalu. In 1994, even before the Pacific Partnership between the two countries was signed, Australia donated a Pacific-class patrol boat (HMTSS Te Mataili) provided by Australia under the Pacific Patrol Boat Program for use by the Tuvaluan police force for search and rescue missions and maritime surveillance and fishery patrol. Australia has agreed to provide its maintenance until 2024 as well as training for its operation. Australia's Defence Cooperation Program supports Tuvalu's maritime police force with training, fresh water and supplies. For 2010-11, Australia donated A$8.9 million (US $9.38 million) for education and vocational skills development, opportunities and participation in regional and international labour markets and targeted technical assistance in key central economic and oversight institutions.
The government of Australia responded to the 2011 Tuvalu drought by working with New Zealand to supply temporary desalination plants; Australia also provide water tanks as part of the longer term solution for the storage of available fresh water.
Tuvaluans can participate in the Australian Pacific Seasonal Worker Program, which allows Pacific Islanders to obtain seasonal employment in the Australian agriculture industry, in particular cotton and cane operations; fishing industry, in particular aquaculture; and with accommodation providers in the tourism industry.
Relations with New Zealand
New Zealand has strong ties with Tuvalu and was one of the three founding donating countries to the Tuvalu Trust Fund and continues as a major donor of aid and technical assistance to Tuvalu. The government of New Zealand responded to the fresh-water crisis caused by the 2011 Tuvalu drought by supplying temporary desalination plants and personnel to repair existing desalination plants.
In 2015 a New Zealand aid programme will extend the implementation of renewable energy in Tuvalu. This project will result in the supply and installation of battery-backed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that are to be located on Vaitupu, Nanumanga, Niutao and Nanumea, with the first hybrid system being built on Vaitupu in early 2015.
New Zealand has an annual quota of 75 Tuvaluans granted work permits under the Pacific Access Category, as announced in 2001. The applicants register for the Pacific Access Category (PAC) ballots; the primary criteria is that the principal applicant must have a job offer from a New Zealand employer. Tuvaluans also have access to seasonal employment in the horticulture and viticulture industries in New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Work Policy introduced in 2007 allowing for employment of up to 5,000 workers from Tuvalu and other Pacific islands.
Relations with Fiji
Tuvaluan relations with Fiji are strong. To date, Tuvalu has been free of the conflicts and disagreements that have marked Fiji's relationship with other nations in the region (see Foreign relations of Fiji). Aside from its mission to the United Nations in New York, Tuvalu's only foreign diplomatic office is its High Commission in Suva, Fiji.
The majority of nations that recognize Tuvalu accredit their embassies in Fiji to serve Tuvalu. This makes Fiji an important diplomatic centre for Tuvalu.
Additionally, relations with Fiji are of particular importance to Tuvalu as all regularly scheduled commercial flights to and from Tuvalu are through Fiji. At present, the only airline flying into the country is Fiji Airways (formerly known as Air Pacific). Until 1999, air traffic also came via Air Marshall Islands. From 1999-2009, the main air service provider was Air Fiji; this service ended when Air Fiji went out of business in 2009. Additionally, regular commercial boat service to Tuvalu is primarily through Fiji (although one provider also goes on to Tarawa in Kiribati as well).
Relations with Fiji are also important as it is by far Tuvalu's largest source of imports. In 2010, Fiji was the source of 46.1% of all imports to Tuvalu.
His Excellency The President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau of Fiji visited Tuvalu in February 2014. He described Tuvalu is being a valued partner in the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) and spoke of Fiji and Tuvalu as having a joint interest in working within the Pacific Small Island Developing States forum to push the rest of the world to take decisive action on climate change.
In October 2014 the prime ministers of Fiji and Tuvalu signed the Fiji-Tuvalu Maritime Boundary Treaty, which establishes the extent of the national areas of jurisdiction between Fiji and Tuvalu as recognized in international law under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Relations with Kiribati
On 29 August 2012 an Agreement between Tuvalu and Kiribati concerning their Maritime Boundary, was signed by their respective leaders that determined the boundary as being seaward of Nanumea and Niutao in Tuvalu on the one hand and Tabiteuea, Tamana and Arorae in Kiribati on the other hand, along the geodesics connecting the points of latitude and longitude set out in the agreement.
Relations with the United Kingdom
While Tuvalu's relations with Britain are peaceful, they have been somewhat troubled since independence in 1978. Tuvaluan-British tensions date back to the colonial era when Tuvalu was part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. The Gilbertese were Micronesian and are in Kiribati, while the Tuvaluans were largely Polynesian. In 1975, the Tuvaluans demanded separation from Gilbert Islands and also sought independence from the Britain.
Tuvalu's fourth prime minister, Sir Kamuta Latasi, officially had the British Union Jack removed from the Tuvualan flag in January 1996 (see Flag of Tuvalu). Prime Minister Kamuta Latasi subsequently lost office following a vote of no confidence. Supporters of Latasi held that this measure symbolically distanced Tuvalu from the colonial period. This change, however, proved to be short-lived, since Latasi's successor (Bikenibeu Paeniu) re-introduced the original design of 9-star flag that included the Union Jack.
As a result of a motion in the parliament, a constitutional review was undertaken to determine if Tuvalu should become a republic or remain a monarchy. The Tuvaluan constitutional referendum, 2008 resolved to retain Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.
Relations with France
Through French Polynesia, France shares a sea border with Tuvalu, and Tuvalu maintains very strong relations with France, cooperating in France's environmental efforts and maintaining close ties with French positions in votes in the United Nations.
France is the only nation besides Taiwan to hold a formal diplomatic presence in Tuvalu. Since 2003, France has maintained an honorary consulate located in the Tuvalu Philatelic Bureau. Among other duties, the consulate oversees projects funded by the French Pacific Funds for Cultural, Social and Economic Development. The largest of these projects (at €50,000) was a major study on renewable energy in 2005. Other projects to date have included the construction of La Pérouse School (1992), air navigation training (1996), the electrification of the Amatuku Maritime School (1996) and a project to increase food production on Nanumaga (1998).
The Franco-Tuvalan environmental protection non-governmental organisation Alofa Tuvalu has operated in Tuvalu since 2009, primarily with French funding. Alofa Tuvalu's stated purpose is to conduct an "extensive study and documentation project aimed at reinforcing Tuvalu's capacities to survey, monitor and manage its marine resources, along with increasing its local and scientific knowledge of them."
Relations with the European Union
The European Union provides a significant amount of aid and technical assistance to Tuvalu; Aid programs for water supply and improvements to waste treatment and other environmental issues were announced in 2009. In March 2014 the European Union provided finance to the Government of Tuvalu for the supply and installation of battery-backed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for the outer islands. The 191kWp project extends the implementation of renewable energy in Tuvalu and will provide the islands with 24 hours-a-day electricity. Tuvalu will be able to reduce consumption of fuel used to produce electricity by 120,000 litres of diesel per year, amounting to reduction in spending on diesel of about AU$200,000.
Relations with the United States
Tuvalu-United States relations were confirmed by the signing of a Treaty of Friendship in 1979, which was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1983, under which the United States renounced prior territorial claims to four Tuvaluan islands (Funafuti, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Niulakita) under the Guano Islands Act of 1856.
The Tuvaluan government, the US government, and the governments of other Pacific islands, are parties to South Pacific Tuna Treaty (SPTT). That agreement entered into force in 1988. Tuvalu and the other members of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the United States have settled a tuna fishing deal for 2015; a longer term deal will be negotiated. The treaty is an extension of the Nauru Agreement.
The United States ambassador to Fiji oversees diplomatic relations with Tuvalu. While the relationship is generally positive, disagreements between the two countries over climate change have caused some strain.
Relations with Cuba
In the late 2000s (decade), Tuvalu began to strengthen its relations with Cuba. Cuba provides medical aid to Tuvalu.
In September 2008, Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia attended the first Cuba-Pacific Islands ministerial meeting in Havana. He was, along with I-Kiribati President Anote Tong, one of the first two Pacific leaders to visit Cuba. The meeting aimed at "strengthening cooperation" between Cuba and Pacific Island countries, notably in coping with the effects of climate change - an issue of critical importance to Tuvalu. At the meeting the Cuban Government agreed to provide qualified medical doctors to work in Tuvalu and to provide medical education to Tuvaluan students.
The first Cuban doctor arrived in Tuvalu in October 2008 with two additional doctors arriving in February 2009. In 2011 there were four Cuban doctors working at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
Relations with United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates and Tuvalu established diplomatic relations on 31 March 2010.
In January 2014 Tuvalu signed an agreement with MASDAR, a UAE Government company, which will provided US$3 million in aid to help Tuvalu solarize the outer islands, so as to reduce reliance on fossil fuel for electricity generation.
Relations with Kuwait
Relations with Japan
Japan and Tuvalu established diplomatic relations in 1979. Japan is a significant aid provider in the form of grants and technical cooperation, including donating the 50-meter vessel, the Manu Folau. In 2015 the Nivaga III was donated by the government of Japan, which ship has capacity for 380 passengers and also freight.
In 2011 Government of Japan provided three new desalination units and parts to repair the existing seawater desalination units through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) following the severe water shortages caused by the 2011 Tuvalu drought. Japan had provided desalination units in 1999 and 2006. In response to the 2011 drought, Japan has funded the purchase of a solar-powered 100 m³/d desalination plant and two portable 10 m³/d plants as part of its Pacific Environment Community (PEC) program.
Relations with South Korea
Tuvalu maintains very strong relations with South Korea through the South Korean Embassy in Fiji. The government of South Korea funded the shipment of 60,000 bottles of water from Fiji to Tuvalu as a first response to the water shortage caused by the 2011 Tuvalu drought. Relations with North Korea is unknown.
Relations with the Republic of China
Tuvalu is one of the few nations that continue to have strong diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan or ROC) and supports ROC's bid to join the United Nations. In turn, the ROC maintains the only resident embassy in Tuvalu and has a large assistance program in the islands with "several mobile medical missions". Taiwan funded the construction of Tuvalu's largest building, a three-story administrative building.
In 2006, Taiwan expressed concern over reports that the People's Republic of China (PRC) was attempting to draw Tuvalu away from the Republic of China. Taiwan consequently made efforts to further strengthen its diplomatic relations with Tuvalu.
Relations with Poland
On 29 May 2015 a joint communique on the establishment of diplomatic relations was signed by HE Aunese Makoi Simati the Permanent Representative of Tuvalu to the United Nations and Permanent Representative of Poland to the UN, Mr Boguslaw Winid.
Relations with Russia
Relations with Georgia
In 2011, the government of Prime Minister Willy Telavi recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which had broken away from Georgia and which Georgia viewed as remaining part of its sovereign territory. However, the government of Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga retracted the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on 31 March 2014 when Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Taukelina Finikaso signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia. Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister said that his country supports Georgia’s territorial integrity in its international recognized borders. Taukelina Finikaso is also reported as saying that re-establishing diplomatic relations with Georgia was an important step towards strengthening ties with the European Union, which he described as a traditional friend of Tuvalu.
Tuvalu's relations with Palestine
On 10 September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly passed a Palestinian resolution to allow its flag to fly in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York. The vote was passed with 119 votes out of 193 in favour. A total of eight countries voted against the idea, including the U.S. and Tuvalu.
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