Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Fiji Prime Minister set to get red-carpet treatment in NZ

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo/Michael Craig
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo/Michael Craig

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama arrives in New Zealand tonight, the first official visit of the former military dictator since democratic election in Fiji in 2014.

Bainimarama was once on the list of people banned fromNew Zealand, after leading a coup in 2006.

Relations reached crisis point in 2008 when New Zealand expelled the Fiji High Commissioner in response to Bainimarama expelling New Zealand and Australian diplomats.

But the thaw in diplomatic relations has been rapid since Fiji's 2014elections.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been a regular visitor to Fiji and Prime Minister John Key made an official visit to the island nation in June.

Key will host Bainimarama atthe Bledisloe Cup game on Saturday at Eden Park.

New Zealand and the United States have tried to maintain a reasonable relationship with Fiji, not least to offset its growing friendships with China and Russia.

Fisheries and other trade will be a key focus of Bainimarama's activities in Auckland tomorrow as he seeks to drum up greater investment in Fiji.

Shane Jones, New Zealand's Pacific Ambassador for Economic Development, will host him for much of the day.

The pair will be speaking at an investment symposium in Auckland.

The Pacific trade and development deal Pacer Plus is also likely to be the agenda of talks with McCully tomorrow and Key on Saturday.

There has been some disquiet over the detention last month of five opposition figures who took part in a forum to discuss the country's constitution, although they were released without charge.

Jones, however, said: "Let's deal with the man as the elected representative of Fiji and the reality is that two-way business continued over the last 10 to 12 years.

"Anything that creates [fisheries] industry jobs in that part of the Pacific deserves our support. There is unfinished business in relation to Pacer Plus."

Bainimarama will have meetings with the Fiji community in Auckland. He will be formally welcomed to New Zealand on Saturday and hold formal talks with Key before the rugby.

- NZ Herald

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