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Pacific Islands Forum
Remarks by VP Harris at the Pacific Islands Forum
July 13, 2022

Remarks by Vice President Harris at the Pacific Islands Forum

President Biden and I consider our relationship with all of you to be a true partnership and a friendship based on mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual benefit.

We will engage transparently and constructively, which means we will listen, collaborate, and coordinate at every step of the way. We will also work to empower a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum, which will strengthen your voice on the world stage as we continue to work together

White House Remarks
South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

5:40 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.  It is my honor to join you, and thank you for inviting me to participate in this gathering.

Prime ministers and presidents, Mr. Secretary General, distinguished guests, I am honored to be able to be with you today, virtually though it may be.

The history and the future of the Pacific Islands and the United States are inextricably linked.

We have historic bonds going back generations, and shared fights for freedom and for liberty.

We share deep ties between our people.  And we are proud in the United States that there are 1.4 million people here that have Pacific Islander heritage, many of whom reside in my home state of California

And as a daughter of California, I know firsthand the incredible contributions Pacific Islanders have made to our culture and to our country.  And we celebrate them, of course, as an integral part of the American story.

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.

We will significantly deepen our 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.

In recent months, we have discussed many of these issues with you.  We have consulted extensively and candidly.  The result is a series of actions that are responsive to your priorities and, we believe, will facilitate our engagement moving forward.

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.

I want to particularly thank Monica Medina, our Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, for her work on this issue and her leadership.  She is with you in Fiji today.

President Biden and I consider our relationship with all of you to be a true partnership and a friendship based on mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual benefit.

We will engage transparently and constructively, which means we will listen, collaborate, and coordinate at every step of the way.  We will also work to empower a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum, which will strengthen your voice on the world stage as we continue to work together.

We will also better coordinate our efforts with allies and partners.  And to do that end, we recently launched the Partners in the Blue Pacific, which includes Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and, of course, the United States.

All of this work recognizes that our partnership with the Pacific Islands spans a wide range of issues.

With respect to the climate crisis, for example, you are on the frontlines of an existential crisis for our entire planet.  But you are on the frontlines, and the world’s emissions have an outsized impact on your nations.

The evidence, of course, is that sea levels are rising.  The coral reefs that protect your islands and foster fisheries are bleaching.   And ocean warming is accelerating.

This is why, as we work with the world to reduce emissions, we will continue to partner with you to build resilience, support adaptation, mobilize climate finance, and ensure sustainability of fisheries and marine resources.

We also intend to expand our overall economic relationship with you.

As part of that, we will pursue infrastructure projects that are sustainable, high quality, climate friendly, and, very importantly, that do not result in insurmountable debt.

We will continue to stand with you to address the COVID-19 pandemic and work with you to prepare for the next one.

We will also continue our leadership combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, because we know that it devastates fisheries and coastal states like yours.

We also want to build on our existing work together with regard to food security, with regard to maritime security, education, and disaster relief.

All of this work together presents an extensive agenda, but each of these issues is incredibly important to this region and to the United States.

And there is one last principle that I believe must guide our work.

In this region and around the world, the United States believes it is important to strengthen the international rules-based order — to defend it, to promote it, and to build on it.

These international rules and norms have brought peace and stability to the Pacific for more than 75 years — principles that importantly state that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states must be respected; principles that allow all states, big and small, to conduct their affairs free from aggression or coercion.

At a time when we see bad actors seeking to undermine the rules-based order, we must stand united.

We must remind ourselves that upholding a system of laws, institutions, and common understandings — well, this is how we ensure stability and, indeed, prosperity around the world.

We will continue to work with all of you, and all of our partners and allies, to craft new rules and norms for future frontiers grounded in our shared values of openness, transparency, and fairness.

All of us convened here, we — we recognize there is so much we can do together.  We have a strong foundation.  And we will build on this and embark on a new chapter, all in the spirit of partnership, friendship, and respect.

President Joe Biden, myself, and our entire administration look forward to working with you as we chart our shared path together.

This gathering is critically important to the United States.  And so I thank you again for the opportunity to address you and to be with you.  And I thank you.

END                 5:50 P.M. EDT

Vice President Harris to Address the Pacific Islands Forum

White House Statement.

On Tuesday July 12 in Washington, D.C., Vice President Kamala Harris will participate virtually in the annual leaders’ meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, which is taking place in Suva, Fiji. The Vice President will underscore the commitment of the United States to the Pacific Islands region and discuss opportunities to deepen U.S. engagement in the region and areas to deliver concrete results for the people of the Pacific. The Vice President will celebrate the longstanding bonds between the United States and the Pacific Islands and will outline our ongoing work to strengthen them. This engagement builds on President Biden’s remarks to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting last year and Secretary Blinken’s trip to Fiji earlier this year.

Fact Sheet: Vice President Harris Announces Commitments to Strengthen U.S. Partnership with the Pacific Island

From WhiteHouse.gov.

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.