14 Mar 2016

Bishop underlines Fiji-Australia ties

2:50 pm on 14 March 2016

The Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has underlined improving relations with Fiji during a visit to the country.

Ms Bishop held talks with the Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama today.

It was their first formal meeting since Australia normalised relations with Fiji in 2014 after elections confirmed the military leader's rule.

They discussed the long-term deployment in Fiji of Australian soldiers who are helping to restore regions ravaged by Cyclone Winston.

Ms Bishop says the cyclone recovery partnership struck over the last three weeks since Winston hit shows why it's important for Australia to maintain strong and close ties with Fiji.

"Our defence engagement is strong. We are looking to increase trade and investment. We are supporting Fiji in development assistance," she told reporters.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop. Photo: AFP

"At a government-to-government, people-to-people level, things are certainly looking bright."

Fiji is increasing its ties with Russia and China in defence and aid respectively.

China has overtaken Australia as Fiji's biggest donor, committing more than $300 million between 2006 and 2013.

Russia has donated arms worth almost $9 million and is training local troops.

Ms Bishop acknowledged that both nations are showing an interest in Fiji.

But Australia was very keen to support China to ensure development aid provided a boost for local economies.