The Fiji government says the decision to replace New Zealand’s Fulton Hogan with a Chinese company to maintain the country’s roads was purely a business one.
Fulton Hogan, which has had a presence in Fiji for the last three decades, has lost the tender to maintain and repair 75 per cent of Fiji’s roads, including the capital Suva.
The company didn’t want to comment but 1 NEWS understands it makes a point of employing and training many locals – it’s now expected to lay off more than 400 workers and many of its subcontractors will also be seriously affected.
The contract has been won by China Railways Fifth group which is expected to take over in April.
Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the tender process was an independent one.
"People have set up businesses in Fiji from all different countries so I don't think you should be playing into this China New Zealand business," he said.
Canterbury University’s Pacific studies director Professor Steven Ratuva says Chinese companies tend to bring their own workers from China and this issue could be a road bump in Fiji’s relationship with New Zealand.
As China’s influence grows in the region Foreign Minister Winston Peters is in Fiji for high level talks.
He says he is unaware of the details of Fulton Hogan’s loss of the roading tender.
"We have not in general taken the view that our aid comes with these massive strings, namely if you don't have us we're not giving you the money," he said.
Mr Peters says his visit to Fiji has been a meaningful one and he continues on to Kiribati and Tuvalu tomorrow.