During World War II, several thousand U.S. troops were stationed in Tuvalu (then known as the Ellice Islands). Beginning in 1942, U.S. forces built airbases on the islands of Funafuti, Nanumea, and Nukufetau. The airstrip in the capital of Funafuti, originally built by the U.S. during the war, is still in use, as is the "American Passage" that was blasted through Nanumea's reef by SeaBees assisted by local divers. Tuvalu became fully independent from the United Kingdom in 1978, and in 1979 it signed a treaty of friendship with the U.S., which recognized Tuvalu's possession of four islets formerly claimed by the U.S. The two countries have worked as partners on regional and global issues promoting peace and strengthening democracy and security. The partnership looks to curb the effects of climate change, reinforce maritime security, and bolster the countries' economic development programs.
U.S. Assistance to Tuvalu
USAID funds regional projects assisting communities in accessing financing, building institutional capacity, and adapting to climate change. With the Pacific Community (SPC), the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change project (ISACC, 2015-2020) is assisting Tuvalu to gain accreditation for climate funds and supporting scale up of successful multi-sectoral projects. The Pacific American Climate Fund (PACAM, 2013-2019) builds the capacity of small local grantees while supporting their efforts to integrate indigenous knowledge into health systems to respond to climate change. The United States is also a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Tuvalu, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, UN Children's Fund, World Health Organization, and UN Fund for Population Activities. The U.S. also has a ship-rider agreement under the under Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) with Tuvalu to provide security and support ship-rider missions which allow Tuvaluan law enforcement officials to ride aboard U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The U.S. also contributes U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy air assets to regional Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) operations that help Tuvalu protect earnings from fishing licenses in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Additionally, Tuvalu participates in U.S.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The U.S. has no significant trade or investment with Tuvalu. Tuvalu is a party to the U.S.-Pacific Islands Multilateral Tuna Fisheries Treaty, which provides access to U.S. fishing vessels in exchange for a license fee from the U.S. industry. Under a separate Economic Assistance Agreement associated with the Treaty, the U.S. government currently provides $21 million per year to Pacific Island parties.