The Cook Islands welcomes direct engagement with the U.S.

prime minister, cook islands, ministry of foreign affairs and immigration, mark brown, anthony blinken, secretary of state, united states,
28 September 2022, Prime Minister Brown with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken

Amongst his first remarks at the U.S.-Pacific Island Country (PIC) Summit presently underway in Washington D.C., Prime Minister Mark Brown welcomed the U.S. Government re-engagement in the global fight against climate change.  President Joseph Biden’s commitment to climate change action through the appointment of Special Envoy on Climate Action John Kerry has been impressive. However PM Brown called on the U.S. and developed nations to “move beyond political pledges to implementation and deliver on climate finance commitments”.

Speaking during today’s engagements, Prime Minister Brown spoke of the triple whammy of crises confronting the Pacific – the existential threat of climate change (consequent sea level rise and increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters); health crisis (non-communicable diseases and COVID); and rebuilding economies that have been destroyed by COVID impact over the last two years.  “The U.S. and developed nations have to step up and deliver now on their climate finance commitments – we need increased grant and concessional lending and support to reform debt financing modalities so PICs, and particularly those assessed through the flawed GDP/capita measure as ‘high income’ can provide and ensure the health and security of our Pacific people.”     

These are not new statements from Prime Minister Brown – he has for over a decade advocated in bilateral and multilateral fora the need for more action from developed nations on climate change, improved delivery mechanisms for climate finance delivery and advocating for a multi variable index on vulnerability in addition to a post-2025 financing framework.

Prime Minister Mark Brown, supported by MFAI officials earlier today, together with 12 Pacific Islands Country (PIC) Leaders, began the two day US-PIC Summit with a full day of discussions held at the Department of State in Washington DC.  Today’s session began with a working lunch chaired by Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, focusing on People Centered Development in the Pacific. The session covered economic, cultural, educational and sporting opportunities for PICs with the U.S.  In attendance were U.S. representatives from the Department of State, Peace Corps, the East-West Center based in Hawaii and the U.S. Agency for International Development.  The second session, a multilateral discussion convened between U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and PIC Leaders focused on economic and trade opportunities between PICs and the U.S.. Existing and new economic and trade opportunities were discussed with U.S. participants including Secretary Raimondo and representatives from the Department of Commerce, U.S. Trade and the Treasury Department.  The third session was a Roundtable with U.S. Special Envoy John Kerry on Climate Action.  Discussions covered climate action, climate resilience, and clean energy transformation.  The final engagement was a discussion on challenges in the maritime domain – maritime domain awareness, 

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and maritime law enforcement followed by dinner hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard at their Headquarters. U.S. participants to the dinner included representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of State and the Department of Interior.

“The Cook Islands has always been interested in greater direct engagement with the U.S. and the face to face engagement opportunities today and tomorrow afford the Cook Islands, PICs and the U.S. administration the chance for a new chapter to our relationship – one which I hope will forge broader and deeper bilateral and regional ties with the U.S.; mutual respect for sovereignty in international affairs and acceptance of the Pacific’s articulation of regional priorities and frameworks for engagement through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific approved by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in July this year.”

Tomorrow promises to be a big day, with anticipated announcements by President Biden who will host PIC Leaders to a dinner at the White House to close the Summit.  In addition to MFAI officials, PM Brown and PIC Leaders and their delegations are also being supported at the Summit by officials of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat headed by Secretary General Henry Puna.

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