On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signed a bilateral agreement with Tuvalu, focusing on diminishing China’s influence in the Pacific region and safeguarding the small island nation from the impacts of climate change.
The agreement, as highlighted by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, designates Australia as Tuvalu’s “partner of choice” and encompasses collaboration on issues spanning climate change, security, and human mobility.
While participating in a meeting of Pacific leaders in the Cook Islands, Albanese declared during a news conference that the Australia-Tuvalu Falepili union would be seen as a significant day, signifying Australia’s recognition of its affiliation with the Pacific family.
Australia has announced the establishment of a dedicated visa program, allowing for the entry of up to 280 Tuvaluans annually, which corresponds to 2.5% of the total population of 11,200. Additionally, financial support will be provided for land reclamation projects in Tuvalu, aimed at expanding the land area in the capital, Funafuti, by approximately 6%.
Acknowledging China’s increasing influence in the region, the agreement also mandates the involved parties to engage in consultations before entering into security or defense agreements with third parties. Tuvalu stands among the 13 nations upholding an official diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, amidst Beijing’s expanding influence in the Pacific.
Albanese further affirmed that Australia is prepared to offer security support to Tuvalu if requested.
Although the complete text of the agreement has not been disclosed, the Sydney Morning Herald had earlier reported on Friday that Australia would extend refuge to all 11,200 residents of Tuvalu if climate change rendered their country uninhabitable. However, the government press release issued after the treaty signing did not make any reference to the provision of mass climate asylum.
Tuvalu, consisting of nine low-lying islands located midway between Australia and Hawaii, is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. The nation has consistently attracted international attention due to its precarious position in the face of climate-related challenges.