I want to express my sincere appreciation for the warm welcome I received on my introductory trip to the Cook Islands.
I met with leaders of government, business and civil society. I learned much about the people, culture and heritage of the Cook Islands. I was impressed by your commitment to preserving your language and culture while simultaneously meeting the challenges of a changing world.
I also heard many requests for the United States to stay engaged with the Cook Islands and the Pacific region.
I assured the people I met that the US will continue to remain a strong and positive presence in the region. The US has ensured the peace and prosperity of the Pacific for decades. From the airfields we built in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Penrhyn during World War II to the work we do today with your government to combat illegal fishing, the US continues to promote a free and fair Pacific region.
Looking ahead, I’ve heard a strong desire for expanded people-to-people connections between the United States and the Cook Islands. We have a number of programmes underway now, such as leadership exchange programs, training opportunities at the East-West Center in Hawaii and US universities, and grants that we give to local Cook Islands organisations. I will continue to support these programs during my tenure as US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
The Cook Islands and the United States have an enduring set of shared values. We value representative government, free and fair trade, protection of the environment, and international norms and institutions. We will continue to seek opportunities to advance these shared values, and to help develop the future leaders of the Pacific.
A strong and prosperous Cook Islands is a goal the Cooks Islands and the US share. I am proud of the positive US-Cook Islands relationship and our joint work to in the region and the world.
I look forward to seeing you again soon upon my return.