Malcolm Turnbull used talks in London overnight to reassure Prime Minister of Vanuatu – of Australia’s reliability as a partner following revelations of preliminary discussions with China to establish a military base on Vanuatu.
Mr Turnbull, who said last week that any such move would be a direct threat to regional peace and stability, expressed such views to Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Charlot Salwai.
Mr Salwai assured Mr Turnbull he had no plans of allowing China to establish a military footprint in his country.
“I rule out, I rule out,” he said after the meeting.
“Vanuatu was never dreaming to become a military base one day. It is not in our culture, it is not in our tradition.”
According to reports, Mr Salwai had no idea that Luganville Wharf was going to be use one day for military purposes, and was cheaper than a separate port the Japanese funded.
He said the wharf funded by the Japanese was ” more expensive than the one we got the loan from China”.
“The one in Port Vila, its more expensive and was built from a concessional loan from Japan.”
Prime Minister Salwai is in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018
|25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting|
|Host country||United Kingdom|
|Dates||19–20 April 2018|
|Venue(s)||Buckingham Palace, Lancaster House, and Windsor Castle (retreat)|
|Cities||London and Windsor, England|
|Chair||Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom|
Head of the Commonwealth succession; on ocean conservation and plastic waste; trade and investment
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018, also known as CHOGM 2018, was the 25th meeting of the heads of government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in the United Kingdom. The meeting had been planned to have been held by Vanuatu at the end of 2017, but was moved to the United Kingdom after the impact of Cyclone Pam on the infrastructure of Vanuatu. The meeting was then postponed to April 2018 due to other international commitments.
The position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, held by the government leader of the CHOGM host country, was transferred at the summit from the Prime Minister of Malta to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who will hold the post until the 26th CHOGM (expected in 2020).
The theme of the summit was "Towards a Common Future". The British hosts set out four main goals for the summit:
- prosperity: boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment
- security: increasing cooperation across security challenges including global terrorism, organised crime and cyber attacks
- fairness: promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance across the Commonwealth
- sustainability: building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate change and other global crises
Under consideration were: A on ocean governance, a Commonwealth connectivity agenda for trade and investment, a declaration on cybercrime, and revised Commonwealth guidelines on election observation in member countries.
This was the first CHOGM held following the United Kingdom's decision to withdraw from the European Union, a decision which has resulted in calls for Britain to strengthen its economic ties with and play a greater role in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, as of 2018, was responsible for one-tenth of British trade compare to the EU with which the UK currently conducts half of its trade. Intra-Commonwealth trade, overall, is expected to increase by at least 17% to around US$700 billion by 2020.
The British government reportedly hoped to use the CHOGM to open negotiations for expanded trade with Commonwealth nations to replace lost trade with the EU, however, as the summit began The Economist dismissed the belief that the Commonwealth could fill the gap created by Brexit as “an amiable delusion”.
Head of the Commonwealth and the Royals
The succession of the Headship of the Commonwealth, and the roles of other members of the Royal Family was discussed, and a proposal to nominate Queen Elizabeth II for the Nobel Peace Prize is also expected to feature in discussions.
At a speech welcoming Commonwealth leaders to Buckingham Palace on the first day of the summit, the Queen said "It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949."
The British government was accused by LGBT activists of backing away from plans to make LGBT rights in the Commonwealth of Nations an issue during the summit. Homosexuality remains a criminal offence in 37 out of 53 Commonwealth states. LGBT-rights campaigners from the UK and across the Commonwealth picketed Marlborough House, the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, on 19 April in order to draw attention to the issue. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech to Commonwealth leaders that she "deeply regrets" Britain's role in having same-sex conduct criminalized in colonial laws that remain in force in many Commonwealth countries, saying of these laws that “They were wrong then and they are wrong now” and that the UK government supports the reform of these laws in former colonies.
Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance
The UK promised to spend £61m to combat the pollution of the world's oceans by plastics and announced that it would ban plastic straws, microbeads, and other waste and to help developing countries curb plastics and other environmental pollutants from contaminating the oceans, and urged other Commonwealth countries to do the same. Five countries have joined the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance: the UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Ghana.
- Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand; this was her first time attending CHOGM.
- Adama Barrow, President of the Gambia; after the Gambia had returned to its status as a Commonwealth republic on 8 February 2018.
- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India; marking the first time since CHOGM 2011 that a Prime Minister of India has attended the summit.
- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had to leave the summit early, returning to South Africa to deal with riots in North West province.
- Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Sibusiso Moyo, was in London and requested to attend the summit as an observer in an attempt by the country to re-engage with the Commonwealth following the departure of longtime President Robert Mugabe. Moyo's presence would have been the first time Zimbabwe has attended a CHOGM in any capacity since leaving the Commonwealth in 2003. Moyo met various Commonwealth leaders on the sidelines of the summit, and the UK expressed its support for readmitting Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth, but Moyo was not permitted to attend the summit itself as the Commonwealth has no provision for observer status.
- Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs (Australia)
The leaders issued a Communiqué at the close of the summit in which they:
- committed their countries to ratifying and implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,
- "mainstream youth priorities into national development policies and plans",
- "address the stigma around disability in all its forms and manifestations",
- agreed to Report of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Commonwealth's fundamental political values,
- adopted the Revised Commonwealth Guidelines on Election Observation in Member Countries
- called for strengthening the international response to the large movement of refugees, including return to their country of origin in safety and dignity
- "adopted a Declaration on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment and mandated the Secretariat to develop an accompanying action plan that considers capacity building and hard and soft connectivity"
- adopted the on sustainable development and protection of the world's oceans
- adopted a Commonwealth Cyber Declaration that "reflects Commonwealth values, and sets out a common commitment to an open, democratic peaceful and secure internet, respecting human rights and freedom of expression"
- called for a strengthening of the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention 
- agreed to work together to combat climate change – particularly with reference to "small island developing states"
- to coordinate efforts countering extremism as well as human trafficking.
- agreed that Rwanda will host the next CHOGM in 2020 and that Samoa would host the CHOGM 2022.
The leaders also issued a statement announcing their decision that Prince Charles will be the next Head of the Commonwealth.
Parallel Commonwealth Summit Forums are to be held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre from 16 to 19 April, with 5,000 participants expected from government, business, and civil society engaged in Women's, Youth, and Peoples Forums with a Business Forum being held at Guildhall. A joint plenary of all four fora are being held for the first time on 17 April.[needs update]
Various members of the royal family—including The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—are expected to host or participate in various receptions and events being held as part of the forums or the heads of government meeting itself. Prince Harry, in his new role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, opened the Youth Forum telling delegates: "In my new role, I will work to support the Queen, my father the Prince of Wales, and my brother William, all of whom know that young people are the answer to the challenges of today."
On the final day of the meeting, Prince Harry and Markle attended a reception to promote women's empowerment and girls' education.
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