Your Excellency Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States of America;
Excellencies Colleague Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
As a region, our most important priorities require global engagement and that requires engagement with development partners beyond the borders of our Blue Pacific.
At my invitation, I am very pleased to welcome the Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris, who is joining us virtually.
We have welcomed the USA back into the Paris Agreement and we are proud to welcome you to our 51st Forum Meeting, Madam Vice President. Bula and welcome. I Invite you to address our Forum.
Madam Vice President, the USA has long been a Pacific power –– your comprehensive remarks and commitment show that America is prepared to become a Pacific partner like never before. And we appreciate your clear response on the US Government contribution under the Treaty.
Your readiness to request from U.S. Congress, $60 million per year for the next ten years in connection with a new Economic Assistance Agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency is a powerful commitment.
If finalized, I am sure that everyone gathered here today can agree that it would be a significant milestone in the relationship between the U.S. and Pacific Parties.
The Treaty offers the United States an unparalleled platform to strengthen its relationship with the Pacific Islands Parties; to balance its various strategic interests in the Pacific region; and broaden our cooperation across regional security, responsible fisheries management, and economic development.
We welcome the $50 million per year in Economic Support Funds, along with $10 million per year in separate programming targeted at mutually beneficial priorities. This includes combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; ensuring fisheries are resilient; that fisheries management is adaptive to a changing climate and ocean; and promoting fisheries-related economic development.
I am sure that the Pacific Island Parties are keen to explore the deeper operational details of the partnership envisaged with the Forum Fisheries Agency, on monitoring and combatting IUU fishing, and supporting long-term economic and environmental resilience in the Pacific.
Madam Vice President, the broader co-operation provisions in Article III of the Treaty – as amended in 2016 – are designed to support the recognition of the special requirements of the Pacific Island Parties. As such, we look forward to discussions on how we can take full advantage of and operationalize Article III to allow for mutually beneficial arrangements such as the landing of Pacific Island Parties’ catch in American Samoa and market access.
I also note the desire of the US for a new Economic Assistance Agreement that enables broad cooperation, assistance, and collaboration. The Pacific Island Parties will indeed prioritize this agenda item for consideration.
Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Heads of Delegations, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, in light of the announcement made by Madam Vice President, it would be remiss of me to not also acknowledge the suite of other commitments the United States has put forth to strengthen its relations with the Pacific.
From commencing discussions with Kiribati and Tonga on the establishment of U.S. Embassies; to appointing, for the first time, a designated U.S. Pacific Islands Forum Envoy.
From working to develop the First-Ever U.S. National Strategy on the Pacific Islands to bringing the Peace Corps Back to the Pacific.
And from progressing towards the re-establishment of a USAIDS Regional Mission for the Pacific to implementing the Partners in the Pacific coordination mechanism with allies, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom; I think it is clear to see that the U.S. is certainly looking a lot more like the Pacific Partner we have traditionally held it to be. We look forward to deeper engagement to support our development and build our capacity at the regional and national levels.
Honourable Ministers and Officials, I wish you the best in the re-negotiation phase and encourage you to nurture this important relationship.
Americans and Pacific Islanders share an ocean –– we look forward to working together towards a secure and prosperous shared future.