U.S. Congressman Ed Case (D-HI) has reintroduced The Boosting Long-term U.S. Engagement in the Pacific Act, or Blue Pacific Act, which would establish the framework to guide the United States’ foreign policy for Pacific Island nations. “Over the past decade, the Pacific Islands have boldly pursued regionalism and cooperation to address the most pressing challenges they face, including climate change, sustainable development, public health, maritime security and more, under the Blue Pacific identity and platform for collective action,” said Case, co-chair and co-founder in the 116th Congress of the first Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus. The United States, Case added, must contribute to regional efforts to address the issues besetting the region. The Blue Pacific Act would expand the U.S.diplomatic and development presence in the Pacific Islands, which are key to the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific strategy to thwart China’s growing ambition to expand.
Case first introduced the Blue Pacific Act in July last year. However, it didn’t move before Congress adjourned.
The bill was co-sponsored by Caucus co-chairs Don Young (R-AK), Ami Bera (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).
“The relationship between the United States and the Pacific Island nations is one of shared values and a commitment to diplomacy,” Young said. “I have been a long-time advocate for the commercial and strategic importance of the Arctic, but I am also a strong supporter of ensuring that the Pacific Islands are safe, secure, and insulated against regional aggression -- particularly in the face of growing hostility from Russia and China.”
“The United States is a Pacific nation, and our security and welfare are inextricably tied to those of our friends and allies in the South Pacific,” Bera said.
He noted that the United States has for years drifted away from the Pacific Islands region despite the longstanding historical ties that serve as an essential link between the U.S. and the Indo- Pacific.
"That’s why I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of this important legislation that will strengthen U.S. commitment to the Pacific Islands region," Bera added.
The bill would also address the following issues:
· Increases U.S. security cooperation and assistance to address regional maritime security, transnational crime and law enforcement issues, including Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU)fishing;
· Deepens and diversifies bilateral and multilateral trade between the
U.S. and the region and invests in trade capacity building programs for the region;
· Supports regional economic and social development in areas of public health, education, infrastructure, climate change resilience and adaptation, and more;
· Builds on existing regional institutions and frameworks, including efforts of like-minded allies and partners of the United States;
· Promotes shared values like press freedom and gender equality; and
· Strengthens people-to-people relationships and civil society.
Sherman said at this critical juncture, “this bill is an important step in demonstrating our commitment to our Pacific Islandallies and partners. The Indo-Pacific region is key to both our economic and national security and the islands of the Pacific are a key yet too often overlooked part of that region. I hope that Congress acts quickly to take up this important legislation.”
Ambassador Hersey Kyota of Palau, dean of the Diplomatic Corps, described the Blue Pacific Act as one of the most important legislation for the Pacific Islands and the region.
"It is very timely, especially now with the ever-increasing threat of climate change, the uncertainty of Covid-19 pandemic, increasing tension and other challenges in the region," Kyota said.
He said the legislation will help small islands, such as Palau, not only to survive but to thrive.
"We lack resources and expertise to tackle and resolve the challenges posed by climate change, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, transnational crime, drug and human trafficking and another challenges we face," Kyota said. "The Blue Pacific Act will assist us a great deal."