Distinguished Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken
Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Hon Mark Brown and our host and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon James Marape
Our deepest gratitude to the government and people of Papua New Guinea on your successful hosting of a fruitful Forum for India Pacific Islands Co-operation (FIPIC) Summit. Thank you also for hosting this U.S.- PIC Dialogue.
The Cook Islands welcome the United States' recent re-engagement with the Pacific and congratulate President Biden and his administration for what has been a significant stepping up by the U.S. in Pacific engagement over the last year and a half.
That stepping up, personally led by President Biden, included last year’s Leaders Summit in Washington in September; several high-level engagements within the region involving senior officials Secretary of State Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo Pacific Kurt Campbell – thank you for your stellar efforts.
Secretary Blinken – for the Cook Islands, genuine and enduring partnerships manifest in not just political announcements but in actions that strengthen the resilience and security of our Pacific people. For the Pacific, this means actions by the United States which respect our articulation of priorities, as detailed in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific continent, and partnering with us directly to deliver on those priorities.
From the Cook Islands, there are five areas of co-operation that we seek United States partnership on and commitment to.
First – on Saturday, Prime Minister Brown and the Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, announced the establishment of diplomatic relations making Canada the 60th diplomatic partner of the Cook Islands. We look forward to the United States being the 61st partner before the end of June.
Second – Secretary Blinken – thank you for hearing our pleas on the need for climate finance modalities tailored to our Pacific context. Your announcement at the start of this evening’s dialogue committing the United States to partnering with the Pacific Forum to capitalise the Pacific Resilience Facility goes a long way to tangible expression of your commitment to our Blue Pacific Continent.
The Cook Islands look forward to continuing to work closely with the Forum Troika, representative of our Forum family, our Secretariat, and the United States towards the confirmation of quantum from the United States towards the PRF before the Forum Leaders meeting in November.
This really is a significant commitment from the United States.
The Cook Islands has been at the forefront, working closely with all Forum members and our Secretariat to shape the PRF for more than 5 years. The PRF is by the Pacific, for the Pacific, and will allow Pacific Leaders, in partnership with partners like the United States, to deliver to our most vulnerable island communities in a timely and transformative way.
Third – in June last year, through determined and sustained Pacific advocacy, the WTO adopted by consensus at the WTO's Ministerial Conference the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies. This Fisheries Subsidies Agreement sets new binding, multilateral rules to curb harmful subsidies, which are a key factor in the widespread depletion of the world's fish stocks – including our Pacific fish stocks.
For the last two months, the Cook Islands has worked closely with G7 members and outreach partners to incorporate into the G7 communique the commitment of the G7 to the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies.
That advocacy was successful, and over the weekend, the G7 committed to the Fisheries subsidies agreement - that commitment is in the “Hiroshima Action Statement for Resilient Global Food Security”.
This afternoon, the Forum Chair, the Hon. Mark Brown, together with Prime Minister Marape and PNG Fisheries Minister, the Hon. Jelta Wong committed to throwing their weight behind Fiji, the Solomon Islands and others who have championed this agreement at the WTO.
We thank the US for showing global leadership and formally accepting the Agreement on Fisheries last month and recognise others who have signed including Canada, Singapore, Seychelles.
Yesterday, within the margins of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, the Forum Chair, the Hon. Mark Brown met with the Director General of the WTO – we understand that some of the largest fishing nations are considering the subsidies agreement favourbaly.
Secretary Blinken, we ask the United States to partner with the Pacific to secure 2/3 majority ratification by WTO members of the fisheries subsidies agreement so we can celebrate that outcome at the Leaders meeting in November in Rarotonga.
Should we together achieve that, we can immediately move to making the necessary adjustment to our tuna management measures, using the power of the WTO to apply discipline to harmful fisheries subsidies at the Tuna Commission meeting, also to be held in Rarotonga in December.
That is how we ensure the security and prosperity of our Blue Pacific.
Four – exploration of our Seabed Minerals.
The Cook Islands welcome its existing partnership with the United States in SBM. PM Brown’s engagement at the Safe Summit in Washington in April provided the opportunity for the Cook Islands to speak on prospects for our country’s economic diversification and moving away from the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.
As a nation, we personify the precautionary approach – through our Marae Moana.
Throughout every stage of the work we have done for over 2 decades in the development of our SBM, we have ensured our stewardship responsibilities and we will continue to do so.
We would welcome the ongoing support from the US as we progress the exploration phase.
Five – the CKI will host the PIF in November. We are preparing with haste and very much look forward to welcoming all 18 Pacific Leaders, 21 Forum Dialogue partners including the United States, our 10 Council of Regional Organisations CROP and international partners.
We encourage the United States to work closely with us, the Pacific Islands Forum, to support our priorities as we’ve articulated through our 2050 strategy.
We seek your investment in our 2050 implementation plan to be endorsed at the Leaders meeting in November.
Finally – we welcome the invitation for a U.S.-Pacific Islands Summit to convene later this year.
Secretary Blinken – for this second Leaders Summit to be successful, it is imperative your government work with our existing regional frameworks for engagement through our Secretariat in Suva.
Leaders Summits such as that held last year must be preceded by meetings of our officials – to ensure how we partner and what we partner on does not erode the unity and solidarity of the Forum and, equally important, we deliver tangible benefits for the peoples of the Pacific and the United States.
If we are to meet in Washington, please do not make us take money from educational resources for our children, so we can travel to the United States to meet with your government.
Secretary Blinken - thank you for honoring us with your presence, and we look forward to working closely with you to bring our shared aspirations to fruition.