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DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN:  Prime Minister Fiame, thank you so much for an incredibly warm welcome.  It’s an incredible honor and pleasure to be here in the first month of Samoa’s international borders opening again after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I want to congratulate you, Madame Prime Minister, for Samoa’s capable management of the pandemic.  The United States was proud to work with Samoa, to share more than 45,000 doses of safe, effective, and life-saving COVID-19 vaccines with the Samoan people in partnership with COVAX.  I am thrilled to be starting my trip in the region here in Samoa which is a United States Pacific Island neighbor, our strong partner and our good friend.

Our two countries share a commitment to important democratic values including respect for human rights, a commitment to protecting freedom of expression and freedom of religion or beliefs, and a strong belief in the importance of a free and open press.

The Prime Minister and I had a very productive discussion about the partnership between the United States and Samoa.  I reiterated the United States’ support for a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum and expressed our gratitude for the PIF’s generous invitation to Vice President Harris to virtually address the Forum last month.  Indeed, the President of the United States is looking forward to welcoming Pacific Island leaders to the White House in September around the UN General Assembly.  We hope to announce the date very soon.

We talked about our continued work together to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to combat the climate crisis which poses a profound threat to people everywhere and especially in the Pacific Islands.  We discussed the partnership between Samoa and the u.S. Coast Guard to conduct security patrols on Samoa’s EEZ as part of our collective effort to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing which damages the ocean environment and undermines Samoa’s economy.

We talked about the new Partners of the Blue Pacific Initiative, which was recently launched by the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and which will help us better coordinate our work with Pacific Island partners on the challenges we all face, from climate change to economic development to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.

We talked about the importance of education, and we are so glad for the success of the first in-person Young Pacific Leaders Conference in two years which took place in July and included Samoan representatives.  The Young Pacific Leaders program builds connections between the next generation of leaders of the United States, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia, because we all know the best way to solve the challenges we face and build a better future for the region and the world is by working together and educating our young people.

I told the Prime Minister that the United States looks forward to soon returning Peace Corps volunteers to Samoa.  The office has been open, but because of the pandemic we have not had the volunteers.  Over the last 55 years more than 2,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Samoa, an incredible symbol of the partnership and friendship between our people.

Above all, I am here in Samoa and the region to listen to and learn from our Pacific sisters and brothers.  We are one Pacific family bound together by our history, our values, our culture, and our shared priorities, and there are no limits to what we can achieve when we come together as partners.

Thank you again, Madam Prime Minister, for welcoming me and my delegation so warmly.  I look forward to our continued friendship.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER FIAME:  Good morning. I’d like to formally at this conference again welcome Her Excellency Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, the most senior representative of the U.S. administration to visit us.  And especially since our administration in the current government came to office.

We’re very pleased to receive your visit, Madam Deputy Secretary.  I think it is always an advantage for colleagues to meet face to face and the COVID conflict has prevented us from doing that.

I won’t span the scope of issues raised and I think the Deputy Secretary has covered that very well.  But I believe because we are moving into post-COVID, I cannot let the opportunity go without publicly expressing our appreciation and thankfulness to the government of the United States for their assistance in COVID and directly to our COVID response.  I have informed the Deputy Secretary that our rates now for vaccinations are already in the 90s- 92 percent- and then we are able to offer coverage and security and herd immunity leading the government to make the decision to open up borders.  And it’s very good that we are able to welcome you very early on and [inaudible] we will also have other opportunities to host representatives of your government.  I must say that the Ambassador will be visiting us next week.

The other key point I have indicated appreciation to the Deputy Secretary is the shift in the policy of the United States with respect to climate change the return of the US to the climate discourse, the Paris Agreement.  The US has been a significant partner and we are very pleased to [inaudible] to the climate resource.

We also indicated our appreciation of the Special Representative Kerry’s initiative with the oceans, and more recently the Pacific hosted oceans conference in Palau.  We look forward to furthering that growth and especially the nexus between climate change and oceans which are issues very critical to our Pacific countries.

With the loss of our patrol boat, we’ve been very appreciative of the regional collaboration and with our government partners including the US through their coast guard and other naval vessels on the security and surveillance within the region and particularly within our economic zones.

The Peace Corps… COVID has not permitted volunteers coming in, but the presence of the Peace Corps remains in some role in their office and I believe should provide any administration.  We do look forward to a return of normality.  The Peace Corps has been a constant U.S. presence.  The program has contributed significantly to many sectors but especially the international sector.  Here in Samoa we look forward to continuing that with the Peace Corps.

We are very pleased the Deputy Secretary very kindly said that she’s here to learn and to listen. But it is also an opportunity for us, here in Samoa and for myself as the leader, to have personal discourse with this high level of representation from the United States.

I was in Fiji last month and the Vice President announced the decisions with regards to the tuna treaty to the amount of $60 million dollars per year for the next treaty period.  But also then the Vice President laid out the general programs of how the US would have to work with us and we are very happy to begin to explore the opportunities that are really happening and future benefits for all of us.

So I think, Deputy Secretary, let me just say that we’re very mindful that you have quite the program.  We are very envious of the fact that these large countries have airplanes and can see three or four countries in a day, and we wish you safe journeys.

U.S. Department of State

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