The United States has renewed its commitment to Fiji and the region, by pledging an assistance of $60 million to the Pacific region over the next 10 years. This was confirmed at the announcement of the Fiji and the United States Tuna Treaty Agreement package, along the margins of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting held in Suva from Monday 11th to Thursday 14th July 2022.

The Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris joined the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, virtually at the announcement.

In his remarks, Pacific Islands Forum Chair and Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama welcomed vice president Harris to the 51st PIF Leaders Meeting.

He said, “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 Prime Minister said Fiji looks forward to the United States support in realising the objectives of the Treaty.

“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,” he said.

In her address, vice president Harris said that, “The United States is a proud Pacific nation and has an enduring commitment to the Pacific Islands, which is why President Joe Biden and I seek to strengthen our partnership with you.

“We recognize that in recent years, the Pacific Islands may not have received the diplomatic attention and support that you deserve. So today I am here to tell you directly: We are going to change that. “Last year, President Biden was the first United States President to address this forum. Secretary of State Blinken traveled to Fiji this year and launched our Indo-Pacific Strategy. And in the months and years ahead, we plan to build on this foundation,” she said.

Vice president Harris said that United States will significantly deepen its engagement in the Pacific Islands. “We will embark on a new chapter in our partnership — a chapter with increased American presence where we commit to work with you in the short and long term to take on the most pressing issues that you face.

“To start, the United States will launch the process to establish two new embassies in the region: one in Tonga, one in Kiribati. We will also appoint the first-ever United States Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum. We will return Peace Corps volunteers to the region. And USAID is taking steps to expand its footprint to include re-establishing a regional mission in Suva, Fiji. All of these steps will enable us to increase our engagement, and develop and deliver concrete results.

“Today, I am also pleased to announce that we plan to triple U.S. funding for economic development and ocean resilience for the Pacific Islands.

“We will request from the United States Congress an increase from $21 million per year to $60 million per year for the next 10 years. Sixty million dollars per year for the next 10 years. These funds will help strengthen climate resilience; invest in marine planning and conservation; and combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and enhance maritime security.

I heard you speak of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty. Regarding that treaty, we do believe it is a cornerstone of our political and economic cooperation, and we look forward to concluding negotiations.” she said.