Excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen
Ni Sa Bula
We have made the journey to this historic summit because we see the USA as a Pacific power that belongs in our region as a direct political and economic partner. And I am glad to speak with you, Mr Secretary, because there is no surer path to a sustainable and resilient Pacific than economic self-sufficiency. Of course, our nations have a collective story of the struggle to share due to the climate crisis. With America as an economic powerhouse in the Blue Pacific, we can make that a story of jobs, investment, and innovation across the Blue Pacific.
Mr Secretary, coming out of the pandemic, the Pacific is open, recovering, and ripe for opportunity. Our blue and green regional economy is growing – we are open to partnerships in manufacturing, digital development, and our resource sectors. And we are keen on green and blue finance – which is inseparable from development finance in our communities.
The Pacific cleans the air we breathe. Without a doubt, the Pacific will provide the protein needed for much of the world in future. For it to play this role as well as provide the environmental services that it does, it needs to be kept healthy and clean. We look forward to working with your government in building a highly sustainable, conservation-leaning, and forward-looking blue and green economy– from green shipping to aquaculture, to carbon trading, and to expanding our marine protected areas. Our people are already leading in this space, and we’d love to talk about ways we can connect the Pacific market with the USA.
You are aware of how crucial long-term concessional financing is to the Blue Pacific – most of our countries are among the most vulnerable in the World. They have suffered from decades of indifference by the international community already. It sends shockwaves through our region with multilateral institutions failing or faltering in addressing –– or even acknowledging –– the cause of climate change. These institutions are already failing us through a lack of fast-acting and affordable finance. We look for America’s support of multilateral efforts to grow the pool of concessionary finance available to small states while also helping to expand the capacity of our governments to access funds and manage implementation.
We welcome the USA’s return to supporting the Green Climate Fund – an important facility for driving our green and blue ambitions. As the USA takes up the role as chair of the GCF, it is a matter of national security in the Pacific that we broaden access to finance and ensure it is delivered with urgency.
We welcome your support of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as a framework for US engagement with the region. I welcome as well the launch of the USA’s Pacific Strategy released yesterday. I am confident these frameworks can strongly complement each other.
I thank you for inviting Fiji to participate in shaping the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. We are Blue Pacific’s hub and are committed to shaping this framework with you in the interest of Fijians and all Pacific people.
Secretary, let me be as clear as I can be Fiji condemns the war on Ukraine in the strongest possible terms and urges an immediate cessation of hostilities. Fiji alone has provided some $60 million as of today to nearly a third of our population to meet the growing costs of food that as directly or indirectly result from this war. I hope we can address here and now the shortages in commodities that Mr Putin’s terrible invasion of Ukraine has created. Trade between our countries is governed by biosecurity and quarantine requirements. Let’s get our officials working together in a direct and concerted manner to open more pathways for essentials –– like wheat and other agricultural produce –– as quickly as possible between Fiji and the USA. This is simply a matter of food and nutrition security. It matters now. It will matter in the years ahead due to the shocks of future crises.
Mr Secretary, lingering uncertainty around the reauthorization of the Generalized System of Tariff Preferences is bad business for our exporters. We urge it to be fast-tracked. Let’s please also add products like coconut oil, sugar, fish, kava, mahogany, and others that make a world of difference for Fijian farmers and smallholder producers. Increasing the quota for products, like sugar, would be very welcome.
The last time a Prime Minister from Fiji was invited to meet a US President in 1984, most Fijians were not even born. Our people are young, they are also English-speaking, increasingly educated, and hungry for opportunity. Digital technology is a bridge that connects our islands to each other and the world. We have embraced the challenge of digitizing our disparate societies to improve education and create a foundation for new industries, like business process outsourcing. We hope to work with more US companies in this regard. We also hope that the USA will support our national carrier, Fiji Airways, which provides vital connectivity to much of the Pacific to commercially forge links with US air carriers and ensure that Fiji Airways remains as a key and viable regional airline with a global reach.
Mr Secretary, a secure Blue Pacific is an economically integrated Blue Pacific. And we stand our best chance of success at sustained economic growth with a stronger US presence in our Blue Pacific. I look forward to making that happen with you and your administration.