SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. It’s wonderful to be here with so many colleagues, and I especially want to thank the founding members of the Partners in the Blue Pacific represented here by Foreign Minister Wong and Foreign Minister Hayashi – Yogi, I saw you – and we have Foreign Minister Mahuta here as well – coming in imminently, and James Cleverly is right there. Good to see you, my friend.
But I’m also very grateful to the many prospective partners that are in this room or about to join us in this room, and I’d especially like to thank our Pacific Island partners who are with us today. Welcome to each and every one of you.
This summer, the Pacific Island Forum released the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. It’s an ambitious plan for tackling some of the biggest challenges of our time – from climate change to public health. And it’s a visionary strategy for a resilient, inclusive, and prosperous Pacific.
For the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom – we all share that same vision. We’re deeply committed to the Pacific and have built enduring partnerships here. All of us have longstanding historical, geographical, and cultural connections to the Pacific and ties between our peoples that go back quite literally generations.
That’s why, in June, we created the Partners in the Blue Pacific, a new initiative to work with Pacific Island countries toward these shared goals. This is a partnership that is guided by you, by the people of the Pacific Islands. Over several months now, we’ve had extensive conversations about this new initiative with representatives from the Pacific Island countries, and most important, we’ve listened, listened to your priorities, listened to your ideas.
Based on these discussions, we’ve identified six lines of effort to pursue together to advance the goals of your 2050 Strategy:
First, support Pacific countries – those often most vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme storms – as they adapt to the impacts of climate change, including by financing adaptation, by promoting clean energy, by expanding cooperation on disaster preparedness and response.
Second, strengthen essential information and communications technology infrastructure through projects that are affordable, secure, high-quality, sustainable, and transparent.
Third, help protect the Pacific’s natural resources and the livelihoods that those resources support. We do this by supporting institutions that are focused on conservation and environmental resilience; enhancing our partnerships to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and expanding our collaboration in maritime research, data collection, and innovation.
Fourth, support development efforts, focusing especially on enhancing social inclusion, gender equality, access to health care in the Pacific Islands. One way we can do this is by providing even more assistance for fighting COVID-19 and other health challenges.
Fifth, work together to build sustainable and resilient economies in the Pacific, including by promoting employment, entrepreneurship, trade, investment.
And sixth, support regional institutions like the Pacific Islands Forum to strengthen local cooperation and amplify the region’s voice on the world stage.
What we hope to do today is to discuss each of these lines of effort in greater detail, and to move our partnership forward. We’re eager to hear your priorities, your ideas, your goals, and especially your hopes for the future. And I look forward to continuing our work to build a strong and resilience Pacific together. With that, it is a great pleasure to turn to our Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Dan Kritenbrink, who will moderate our discussion today.