Ambassador Ebert-Gray acknowledges PNG US Military ties

Thank you Commander Louis

Allow me to extend a very special welcome to Commander Louis and his crew of the USS Michael Murphy and a tremendous shout out to the women and men in uniform from both the U.S. Navy and the PNG Defense Forces.

I am so pleased to see you all here in Port Moresby and to know that you are working together to help ensure the safety and security of all of us.

I must thank our friends here in Papua New Guinea for their very warm and friendly welcome to our sailors, who thoroughly enjoyed your company today at church and sport, and yesterday at the Prime Ministers XIII Cup.

Before I begin a few remarks, I’d like to acknowledge a few of my colleagues and Very Important Players, who have joined us tonight.  Welcome to:

The Honorable Rimbink Pato, Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honorable Jelta Wong, Minister of Police

The Honorable Allan Bird, Governor of the Province of East Sepik

The Honorable   Say/Sine/dran   Muth/u/vel, Governor of West New Britain Province

The Honorable Brian Kramer, Member of Parliament

New Zealand High Commissioner Sue Mackwell

French Ambassador Philippe Janvier Kami/yama

Japanese Ambassador Sat/oshi Naka/jima

European Union Ambassador Ioannis   Gu/kar/a/kis – Ari/gee/op/ou/lu

APEC CEO, Chris Hawkins

Commander of the PNG Defense Forces, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo

And many other distinguished guests who we are honored joined us tonight.

Commander, thank you for your welcoming remarks.  As you noted, the United States and Papua New Guinea have a long history forged by generations of Americans in church pews, school classrooms, rural clinics, and yes, in the jungles and seas of Papua New Guinea.   For decades, U.S. security engagement has protected our shared values of freedom, openness, goodwill, mutual respect and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

This year, as host of APEC, Papua New Guinea stands at the threshold of greater economic opportunity.   Your visit this weekend represents the most important ingredient to assuring free and open access to the maritime domain which is a cornerstone of the economies of  Papua New Guinea and the United States.   As PNG makes economic growth  their highest priority,  we each have an important role to play to safeguard and strengthen the existing open, inclusive, and rules based regional order;  and to protect territorial integrity and regional institutions.

We therefore thank Papua New Guinea for recently hosting the visits of the Commander of the Indo Pacific Command; Pentagon representatives of the Secretary of Defense; APEC Coast Guard planners; and the impressive crew of the USS Michael Murphy.   With each visit, their message was consistent – the United States shares Papua New Guinea’s desire for security and freedom of the seas and skies, and the insulation of sovereign nations from external coercion.

To this end…. today Minister Pato and I signed an agreement to advance negotiations on three important bilateral agreements that will further deepen security cooperation between our two counties on land, sea, and in the air.

We believe that Papua New Guinea has a promising future; and that investment, trade, and employment depends on trusted partners.

In support of PNG’s goals, a few weeks ago the United States brought its first U.S. trade delegation of eight major companies to PNG, introducing some of the most successful American businesses to the opportunities offered by this rich and diverse country.   Global brands like Johnson & Johnson, ConocoPhillips, General Electric, and 3M left Jackson’s Field impressed with what they learned.   One company returns this month to more closely examine the potential of joining Exxon, Coca Cola, KraftHeinz, The Hilton and other American brands here working to move Papua New Guinea forward through investment, jobs, and community development.

Coupling this business interest, last week we briefed government officials on our US-PNG trade agreement known as the Generalized System of Preferences.  PNG agriculture, coffee, and minerals have long been free of U.S. tariffs, while under the GSP program, we now know that additional sea products, tropical goods, jewelry, manufactured items, and handicrafts like bilums also enjoy zero tariffs in the USA.   In our view, it is timely to expand trade between our two shores.

In addition last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the signing of a new initiative, called the Act for Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development, introducing the new acronym BUILD.  This Act provides opportunities for American companies to compete overseas and to create jobs in line with both PNG and US national economic strategies.  BUILD advances our foreign policy goals by strengthening the U.S. government’s development finance capacity and compliments sources of financing provided by OPIC, which visited PNG last month to meet with emerging US businesses.

In addition to our activities on security and economic development, the U.S. Embassy continues our partnership with PNG in health services, promoting good governance, and in opening equal opportunities to women and men.

Reflecting the friendship and values of our two nations, in just 40 days we will welcome U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Papua New Guinea.    He looks forward to fulfilling his goal of visiting PNG, and to unveiling measures to further support a free and open Indo-Pacific, and to reinforce America’s commitment to Papua New Guinea and the region.

As the daughter of a WWII navy veteran in his 90s, with whom I spoke today, I believe that we must not take for granted our oldest friendships in our desire to sustain and advance peace, prosperity, and goodwill.   And that friendships must be both between our national governments which uphold the values we all treasure, as well as between  the people living and working throughout the breathtaking landscape of Papua New Guinea.

So thank you all for joining us tonight to welcome the U.S. Navy, and all it represents to us all.