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NEWS | July 15, 2022

Vice President Harris Announces Commitments to Strengthen U.S. Partnership with the Pacific Islands

U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu -- On July 12, Vice President Harris will participate virtually in the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting at the invitation of the Forum Chair Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji. As part of this engagement with Forum leaders, the Vice President will announce new commitments to deepen U.S. partnership with the region and to deliver concrete results for Pacific people. These actions advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Pacific Islands partnership and to support Pacific regionalism, with a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum at the center.

This milestone reflects the United States’ robust and growing commitment to the Pacific Islands region. It follows President Biden’s appointment of a Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations and the launch of the Partners in the Blue Pacific, a new coordination initiative among the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to support Pacific priorities more effectively. It also builds on five decades of close cooperation with the Pacific Islands Forum, including as a founding Dialogue Partner; $350 million in annual U.S. assistance to the Pacific; and deep people-to-people ties, including among the 1.4 million Pacific Islanders who live across the United States.

With this foundation, the Vice President is announcing the following actions. The Biden-Harris Administration will:

  • Establish New U.S. Embassies in Kiribati and Tonga: The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes that our close partnership with the Pacific requires regular exchange between our governments at all levels, from our leaders to our diplomats around the world. To that end, the United States, subject to congressional notification, will commence discussions with Kiribati and Tonga about our interest in establishing U.S. embassies in those countries. The United States is on track to reopen its embassy in Solomon Islands.
  • Triple Request for U.S. Funding for Economic Development and Ocean Resilience: For 33 years, the South Pacific Tuna Treaty has served as a cornerstone of political and economic cooperation between the United States and Pacific Islands, enabling U.S. fishing-fleet access to the Pacific, supporting livelihoods across the region, and providing a platform for broader cooperation, including to combat the scourge of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Vice President Harris will announce that the United States is prepared to request from the U.S. Congress $60 million per year for the next ten years—nearly triple the current levels and $600 million in total—in connection with a new Economic Assistance Agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency.
  • Appoint the First-Ever U.S. Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum: A resilient and prosperous Pacific Islands region requires a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum—the preeminent driver of action in the region. The Biden-Harris Administration will redouble our commitment to the Pacific Islands Forum by appointing, for the first time, a designated U.S. Pacific Islands Forum Envoy. In doing so, the United States will further increase our overall diplomatic footprint across the Pacific Islands.
  • Design and Release the First-Ever U.S. National Strategy on the Pacific Islands: The Biden-Harris Administration will craft and publish the first-ever U.S. strategy on the Pacific Islands—a whole-of-government strategy to prioritize the Pacific Islands in American foreign policy and drive effective implementation. It will be nested under the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States, which the Biden-Harris Administration released earlier this year in Fiji. The U.S. National Strategy on the Pacific Islands will align with the goals, areas of focus, and principles of the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
  • Bring the Peace Corps Back to the Pacific: The longevity of our ties with the Pacific Islands depends on close people-to-people relationships. Peace Corps volunteers will soon return to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu, and the Peace Corps will work with the region to explore program expansion to additional Pacific Island countries.
  • Progress Toward Re-establishing a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Mission for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji: USAID provides life-saving humanitarian and development assistance across the Pacific Islands, from Kiribati in the wake of drought to Tonga in the wake of volcanic eruptions and tsunami waves to economic assistance in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. The Vice President will announce that USAID is taking steps to expand its presence in the Pacific, subject to congressional notification, to improve close cooperation with its host country partners.
  • Implement and Advance the Partners in the Blue Pacific: Emerging challenges, from the climate crisis to infrastructure needs, require cooperation across borders. To that end, the United States and its allies and partners—Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—established a new coordination mechanism, the Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP). The PBP is dedicated to supporting Pacific priorities more effectively and efficiently, to bolstering Pacific regionalism, and to expanding opportunities between the Pacific and the world. Our countries provide a combined $2.1 billion in development assistance for the region, and we will seek to drive additional focus and resources by welcoming further members and observers, including in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Above all, at every stage, the PBP will be led and guided by the Pacific Islands, including close consultations on its flagship projects.
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