Australia splashes ECA cash in the Pacific as China fears loom

(Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, 8 November 2018) Australia has announced that at least A$2 billion has been earmarked for grants and long-term projects in the Pacific and Timor Leste, to be administered by a new Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility. An extra A$1 billion will be made available for Australia’s export credit agency EFIC which helps Australian companies invest and expand overseas by giving them loans and guarantees. The announcements in a speech to soldiers in Townsville will be widely read as aiming to edge out growing Chinese infrastructure-building in Pacific nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that "Australia has an abiding interest in a south-west Pacific that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically." Raising questions about sovereignty have in the past been a way for Western leaders to express concern that China is loading developing countries up with infrastructure-related debt they cannot handle, making them politically beholden to Beijing, though Mr Morrison stresses Australia will co-operate with other countries including China.