Lay of the Land: Fiji is located in the south central Pacific west of Tonga and right astride where the International Date Line is supposed to pass. The Dateline was moved to the east so that all Fijian islands would be on the same day. The group consists of 300 islands, mostly large volcanic and some smaller volcanic and coral atolls. About 100 of the islands are inhabited.
The United States had some military outposts on Fiji during World War II and Fijian troops fought alongside the Americans against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands. Since Fiji’s independence, relations with the United States were good up until the 1987 coups. Since then the United States has been critical of Fiji’s military for those coups and the coup in 2006.
In 2006, just prior to the most recent coup, then-U.S. Ambassador David Lyons gave an interview to the Fiji Times in which he criticized the Fiji government for considering amnesty for those involved in the 2000 coup. This angered the Fiji government, which essentially told the United States to mind its own business. Lyons warned that Fiji had developed a coup culture, and democratic government would continue to face difficulties, especially if coup perpetrators suffered no consequences for their actions. Ironically, the Fijian government angry at the United States for such meddling was itself ousted in a military coup in December of 2006. The United States does maintain an embassy in Suva, the capital of Fiji, but does not recognize the current Fijian government, the nominally civilian interim government, as legitimate.
In 2007 the United States imported goods worth $152,818,000 from Fiji. Some of the main categories were fish and other food products, lumber, and clothing. Also in 2007 the United States exported goods to Fiji worth $29,947,000. The main categories of the exports were tools, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications equipment, machinery, fish, and soybeans. In late 2006 the United States suspended aid to Fiji until such time as a democratically elected government achieves power. The aid request for 2008 was only $370,000 in security assistance. The United States does provide Peace Corps volunteers for Fiji.
Trading Human Rights Accusations
David L. Lyon 1/9/03-7/23/05
A longtime cabinet minister and diplomat, Winston Thompson came out of retirement in April 2009 to serve as Fiji’s ambassador to the United States. His appointment was announced one week before Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo suspended his nation’s constitution. Thompson has also served as Fiji’s representative to Canada since February 2010.
Career diplomat Frankie Annette Reed has been chosen to serve as ambassador to the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru. Her Senate confirmation hearing was held on June 29, 2011, and she was confirmed on August 3.
C. Steven McGann, a longtime member of the Foreign Service whose work has spanned from Africa to South Asia, received his first ambassadorship in being selected to be the United States’ top envoy to Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, and Nauru. He assumed his position on October 8, 2008.