Foreign policy and defense
Fiji is small in the world but large in
Oceania. Several regional institutions have or have had
their base here, such as the Pacific
Islands Forum (Pacific Islands Forum,
PIF) and the University of the South Pacific. Many
international agencies also have regional headquarters
in Fiji. Australia and New Zealand are important
partners, but in 2010, China became the largest foreign
For the first time after independence from the
British in 1970, Fiji pursued an alliance-free but in
practice western-friendly policy. The ties to the UK and
other Commonwealth countries were strong. However, the
1987 coups led to Fiji being suspended from the
Commonwealth. After the constitutional reform in 1997,
Fiji was again welcomed, now as a republic. After the
coup in 2000, the country was again excluded from the
decision-making body of the Commonwealth. Fiji was
subject to sanctions and aid was withdrawn. After the
2001 election, Fiji again became a full member of the
Commonwealth. In connection with the military coup 2006,
Fiji was again suspended from the Commonwealth's
decision-making body. Financial sanctions were
reinstated. In September 2009, Fiji was definitely
suspended from the Commonwealth. To re-enter Fiji into
the community, the Commonwealth required both a
democratic constitution and parliamentary elections.
Following the September 2014 election (see Current
policy) Fiji regained full Commonwealth membership.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Fiji for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
The regional cooperation body PIF tried to pressure
Fiji's regime to announce elections. When the
Bainimarama dome leader announced in spring 2009 that
elections would be held no earlier than 2014, Fiji was
excluded by PIF, the first nation affected by such a
measure. Fiji was not allowed to attend meetings or take
part in development assistance via PIF. After the 2014
elections, Fiji was again offered a place in the PIF,
but Bainimarama showed slight interest in this. Only in
2015 did Fiji again participate in PIF cooperation.
Australia and New Zealand
Up to the 2010, Australia was Fiji's largest foreign
investor and main trading partner. Following the
military coup in 2006, Australia froze its diplomatic
relations with Fiji and imposed sanctions. From 2012,
when Fiji's government had begun preparing for general
elections, Australia agreed to gradually re-establish
its diplomatic relations with the country. Following the
2014 elections, Australia liquidated its sanctions
Fiji's relationship with New Zealand was long
strained. In 2007, Fiji expelled New Zealand's highest
diplomat in the country after alleged involvement in
Fiji's internal affairs. In December 2008, the successor
was also expelled.
From the spring of 2009, when Fiji's constitution was
repealed, Australia and New Zealand called for a broader
international commitment to democratization in Fiji.
Following a dispute over Sri Lankan judges hired by
Bainimarama, the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors
were ordered to leave Fiji within a day. Fiji also
recalled its ambassador to Australia and expelled an
Australian professor who was instrumental in drafting
Fiji's constitution of 1997 but who has now made abusive
statements to the military regime.
In January 2010, a cautious approach was noticed
between Fiji and New Zealand. The countries agreed to
once again reinforce their heavily slanted embassies.
Before the 2014 elections, New Zealand lifted its
sanctions against Fiji and after the election, full
diplomatic relations between Fiji and New Zealand were
Both Australia and New Zealand provided extensive
humanitarian assistance to Fiji when the islands were
hit by cyclone Winston in February 2016.
Other important relationships
During Bainimarama's tenure as Prime Minister
(2007–), Fiji has strengthened ties with China, whose
assistance to the country has increased sharply since
the coup in 2006. The increase has to some extent
compensated for the loss of traditional donors such as
the EU, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In 2014, Fiji
and China signed a bilateral defense cooperation
agreement. In November of that year, Xi Jinping became
the first Chinese president to visit Fiji. During the
2010s, the two countries also signed several trade and
cooperation agreements. China is now Fiji's largest
foreign investor and in 2016 accounted for almost half
of its foreign investment.
The Bainimarama government has also developed closer
relations with Russia during the 2010 century, not least
Russia has supplied arms to Fiji.
Together with Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon
Islands and the French territory of New Caledonia, Fiji
is part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The group
aims to promote Melanesian culture but has mostly been
involved in economic cooperation and is developing a
free trade area. In 2009, the group's independent
members expressed support for Fiji and Bainimarama, but
when Fiji took over the rotating chairmanship in July
2010, it was blocked by Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward
Natapei. Only after Natapei had been ousted by the
Fijian parliament was Fiji able to take over the
presidential club in December of that year.
After the 2006 coup, the EU withdrew all
non-humanitarian aid to Fiji. However, in 2010, the
Union entered into a temporary agreement on economic
cooperation with the military regime, and after the 2014
Fijian election, the EU abolished all aid restrictions.
The following year, the EU signed an agreement that
provides Fiji with extensive assistance for the
development of agriculture and the judiciary.
Strong military power
The Constitution of 2013 guarantees Fiji's military a
central role in society, with an influence that goes
beyond the role of defense force (see Political system).
The Constitution also gives soldiers amnesty for any
abuses committed in connection with the coup in 2006.
More and more of Bainimarama's critics believe that
Fiji's democracy is threatened by an oversized and
overly influential military power. Fiji has military
traditions that relate to the warrior cast, Bati, who
serve the chieftains and who are present in all the
indigenous groups. Many batmen are still recruiting,
even abroad. Since 1978, Fiji has participated in UN
peacekeeping operations to an unusual degree, in
proportion to the size of the country. Many Fijians have
also enlisted in the British Army.
Military engagements abroad are an important source
of income for Fiji. After the coup in 2006, New Zealand,
among others, urged the UN to put pressure on Fiji's
military regime to implement democratic reforms by not
allowing the country to participate in new UN
operations. The pressure did not have any significant
effect, despite the fact that the UN Security Council
also rejected new Fijian efforts. Instead, the number of
Fijian UN soldiers has increased since 2006. Among other
things, Fijian soldiers have been deployed in the UN
force Unami in Iraq and in the MFO in Egyptian Sinai as
well as at the Syrian Golan Heights.
FACTS - DEFENSE
3,200 men (2017)
300 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.9 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
2.9 percent (2017)