Vanuatu aims high with a new trade commissioner in Europe

Vanuatu aims high with a new trade commissioner in Europe

On last Friday, the 22nd of April, at the WTO in Geneva, The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone Tau, announced the appointment of Mr.Shiv Shankaran Nair, as Vanuatu’s Trade Commissioner covering the major European countries and MENA.

At first sight, this appointment looks very ambitious, for a nearly bankrupt country like Vanuatu, which relies heavily on tourism for making ends meet. However, Nair and Vanuatu have some interesting history.

In 2013, the then Foreign Minister of Vanuatu, Edward Natapei, desperately looking for a face saving formula to get out of the recognition of Abkhazia, the breakaway part of Georgia, contacted Nair in Malta. Nair was already an Advisor to The Government of Vanuatu on political Affairs at that time

Vanuatu along with Nauru and similarly impoverished Tuvalu had recognized Abkhazia, after being promised “grants” of upto 50 million USD by the breakaway “Republic of Abkhazia”. After recognition, The Abkhaz government stated that payments had been made, however all the countries involved denied ever receiving any funds. What it did for the three Pacific islands, was to bring down a very negative reaction from the western countries and Australia and New Zealand.

Natapei, who came to power in a snap election made it his primary goal to distance himself and the incoming administration from the recognition of Abkhazia. It is in this context that he turned to Shiv Shankaran Nair, a businessman with interests in Vanuatu, who also happened to be a former employer of the Georgian President, Mikhail Sakhashvilli. In 1995, Nair set up the first post –soviet, insurance Company in Georgia, The British Caucasian Insurance Company, where the young Mikhail Sakhashvilli worked as an analyst, before winning a Muskie scholarship and travelling to the US. He returned to Georgia, led the popular “Rose Revolution” overthrowing the Govt. of Eduard Schevernadze and became President of Georgia.

After the ill-fated war against Russia where Georgia lost substantial part of its territory, Sakhashvilli had made it his mission to overturn international recognition of the breakaway parts of Georgia as sovereign countries. However Georgian diplomacy was no match for Russian chequebook diplomacy, and these territories continued to enjoy international recognition by a handful of states.

Vanuatu’s overture through Nair was God sent for Georgia. The Georgians immediately responded and several secret meetings were held in Dubai, the culmination of which was an announcement by the Georgian President that he had persuaded Vanuatu and Tuvalu to de-

recognize Abkhazia and to recognize the territorial integrity of Georgia .

Based on his close relationship with Vanuatu, therefore Shiv Shankran Nair’s appointment, as

Trade Commissioner doesn’t altogether come as a surprise.

Born in Kerala India, Nair is an Economist by training, having graduated from Don Bosco College and subsequently having done a Masters Degree in political Risk from The Scottish Business School, Glasgow. He then became a FX trader with Equatorial Bank in the City of London, before being appointed Head of The Nigerian Government’s Procurement arm in London, called ADPLA.

In 1995, he embarked on a career as the first foreign advisor in the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, that has led him to be subsequently described by The Economist as “China’s secret weapon in Africa”. He then went on to work in similar capacities for most of the Former Soviet Republics, forging close relationships, amongst them Mikhail Sakhashvilli, who went on to become the Georgian President

In appointing Nair as its European Trade Commissioner, Vanuatu is banking on accessing Chinese, Qatari and Korean credit through Nair’s contacts with these governments and state companies. The Vanuatuan Foreign Minister has stated that as Trade Commissioner, Nair will focus on cleaning up Vanuatu’s online gaming regulations as well as bringing in European and Middle Eastern FDI in tourism and Agriculture. Hopefully Vanuatuans wont have to wait long to see some results

25th April, 2016


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