A former senior staff of the United States Embassy in Suva, Nirmal Singh, has appealed to the Government to reconsider its decision to close the Fijian Embassy in Washington DC. Fiji Embassy in Washington DC is also accredited to Mexico and Canada.
The decision to close the Fiji Embassy is a serious lapse of judgment, says Nirmal Singh, who was the Political and Public Diplomacy Specialist with the US Embassy in Suva.
Singh said the United States is of strategic importance to Fiji and the region in terms of trade and regional security.
“The closure of Fiji Embassy in the United States and keeping the Fijian Embassy in Beijing sends an ambiguous message of major shift of foreign policy priorities of the Fijian government,” he said.
He said the United States is Fiji’s major trading partner with annual Fijian exports to US totaling close to USD200miillion, compared to China which stood at approximately USD60million.
“United States is also a major source of tourism. It is the third highest source of visitors after Australia and New Zealand, with an increase of 8% last year. United States has also been a major source of American film production in Fiji.
Singh said that Fijian diplomats posted in United States failed to get the attention of the United States Government to issues facing Fiji and the south pacific region.
“Fiji is regarded as the leader of pacific islands block in Washington and was always expected to spearhead the interest of pacific islands within the US Government hierarchy.
“We failed to establish constructive relations with the US Department of State, US Department of Commerce and the US Department of Defense. We failed to maintain the Joint Commercial Commission (JCC) established by President Bush and did not lobby for the continued annual engagement of Pacific Leaders by the United States Presidents that was held in Hawaii. He said that we failed to use the US Congressional delegation from Samoa and Hawaii to lobby for the interest of Fiji and pacific islands countries.”
He said the United States is also Fiji’s strategic defense and security partner especially in the Pacific theater and the importance of the Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii cannot be underestimated. The Fiji Embassy based in Washington DC failed to engage in meaningful dialogue and defense cooperation with the Pacific command in terms of strategic defense alliance, training and enhancement of Fijian defense assets, capability and technology.
“We must work towards reviving Joint Commercial Commission (JCC) and resumption of Pacific Leaders Annual Engagement with the US President in Office and maintaining our Embassy in Washington is of critical strategic importance. Nirmal also said that Fiji /US Relations deteriorated under the US Ambassador Larry Dinger and subsequent US Ambassadors has difficulty in reaching out to the corridors of power within the Fijian government because of the lack of trust.”
He said the new US Ambassador, Joseph James Cella – a political appointee – will make a lot of difference in Fiji/ United States relations.
“It’s in this view I am urging Fijian Government to reconsider its decision to close the Fiji Embassy in Washington DC and make appropriate appointment to Washington who is able to reach out to the corridors of power within the US government and further enhance trade, defense and security posture of not only Fiji but the region as a whole.”