Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape at a Joint Press Availability
May 22, 2023
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Prime Minister, thank you so much. And I fully endorse everything you said. And you can speak for me, because you do it so eloquently. And I can only fully agree with everything that you said. But thank you. Thank you for the incredibly warm reception, and thank you for the incredibly productive day – both on a bilateral basis between the United States and Papua New Guinea, but also with all of our regional partners – discussing and making progress on issues that are critical to our shared future.
There is an old Hawaiian saying that translates loosely to “united to move forward.” And I think that’s the spirit in which we all came together today as Pacific nations. Our partnership is crucial to how we deliver for our people, how we meet their needs and aspirations, and advance our common vision for the region – one that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. Or, as your 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent puts it, a “resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy, and productive lives.” It is a powerful, positive ambition that we share.
At this forum we’ve built on momentum from the first U.S.-Pacific Island Summit last fall. There in Washington, President Biden pledged to open a new era in our partnership – one of mutual respect, trust, and benefit. As I had an opportunity to tell Pacific leaders at our meeting today, over the past year the United States has been listening to you, engaging with your governments, working to deliver on our summit announcements that align with your broader vision. And together, we’ve made considerable, tangible progress on many of the commitments in a short period of time. Together, we are super-charging our climate action.
Today, I announced that the United States will support the PIF in standing up the new Pacific Resilience Facility. This Pacific-owned, Pacific-led solution will drive investment into climate adaptation and resilience in front-line communities. Together, we’re boosting our bilateral security relationship to ensure that the Blue Pacific remains a place of peace and prosperity.
The prime minister and I just signed, as he mentioned, two agreements which will boost cooperation between Papua New Guinea Defence Forces and the U.S. Coast Guard to help build up the Defence Forces’ capacity, and help combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
Together, we’re driving progress to expand trade, investment, and business initiatives that can lift up all communities. In Papua New Guinea specifically, we’re working with Congress to provide over $45 million in new programming on sustainable and inclusive development, public health, and energy security. And later this year the Department of Commerce will lead a first-ever U.S. business delegation to Pacific Island countries to explore opportunities in energy, in transportation, in health care, tourism, and telecommunications.
Together, we’re modernizing and enhancing the Compacts of Free Association. These are the bedrock of U.S. engagement in the Pacific. We just signed our agreement with Palau today, in this room. And I’m grateful to President Whipps for his partnership. Tomorrow, we’ll sign our agreement with the Federated States of Micronesia. And I look forward to finishing negotiations with the Republic of the Marshall Islands soon, to ensure that this arrangement reflects the realities and the challenges of our time. As part of these agreements, the United States will commit $7.1 billion to the Freely Associated States over the next 20 years.
Together, we’re also strengthening ties between our peoples. We are very excited to announce the return of the Peace Corps to the Pacific Islands, and that we’re launching new educational exchanges to share skills and expertise, and forge enduring connections that will benefit our communities.
So, we’ve got a lot to work on, a lot to accomplish together. And that’s why we’re expanding our diplomatic presence in the region, delivering on our commitments last year. We’ve opened two new embassies, one on the Solomon Islands, the other just two weeks ago in Tonga. And we’re working to do the same in Vanuatu and Kiribati by the end of this year.
We’ve named our first ever envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, Ambassador Frankie Reed, who will continue to engage throughout the region to strengthen our partnerships. We’ll continue to strive to meet the Pacific where it is, (inaudible) Pacific leaders and through the Pacific Islands Forum. We’ll encourage other partners to do the same, including through the Partners in the Blue Pacific, to support the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. And in that regard, we very much welcome India’s engagement with countries in the region. That, too, is a very positive development for the future that we all want.
So Prime Minister, to you, thank you. Thank you for this partnership at a critical time for the region that we share. And thank you for the work that we’re doing every day to build it, to make it stronger, to deliver on our shared vision. Thank you.