More information about Tuvalu is available on the Tuvalu country page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
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 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 United States, which recognized Tuvalu’s possession of four islets formerly claimed by the United States. The United States has no consular or diplomatic facilities in the country. Officers of the U.S. Embassy in Fiji are concurrently accredited to Tuvalu and made regular visits to Tuvalu prior to COVID-19 related border closures. The two countries work as partners on regional and global issues promoting peace and strengthening democracy, and their common interests include regional and maritime security, mitigation of environmental challenges, and economic development.
U.S. Assistance to Tuvalu
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds regional projects assisting communities in accessing financing, building institutional capacity, and adapting to climate change. The Climate Ready project (2016-2022) supports climate finance and management capacity by working with government partners and stakeholders to draft and implement policies to achieve adaption goals; access larger amounts of financing from international adaption funds; and improve the skills and systems within each country to better manage and monitor adaption projects. With the Pacific Community (SPC), the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change project (ISACC, 2015-2022) is expanding government capacity to manage their climate finances more successfully and supporting the scale up of successful multi-sectoral projects to improve climate resilience. The Pacific American Fund (2020-2025) is a regional grant facility that supports civil society organizations and private-sector enterprises across the Pacific in advancing locally-designed and -led development solutions that increase resilience and improve the livelihoods of Pacific Island communities. 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 United States has a maritime law enforcement agreement (sometimes referred to as “shiprider agreement”) with Tuvalu to strengthen cooperative maritime surveillance and interdiction activities for the purpose of identifying, combating, preventing, and interdicting illicit transnational maritime activity. The agreement authorizes U.S. boarding of suspect vessels and authorizes shiprider activities, in which Tuvaluan law enforcement officials support maritime operations aboard U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels. The maritime law enforcement agreement greatly strengthens the partnership between the United States and Tuvalu and provides a valuable tool for effective maritime security missions. The United States 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. Indo-Pacific Command sponsored workshops on topics including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and maritime security.
To combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, USAID programs are working to improve sustainable coastal fisheries management and create enabling conditions for an ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Through its Pacific Coastal Fisheries Management and Compliance program (2021-2026) with the Pacific Community (SPC) Division of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME), USAID is strengthening appropriate, effective, and collaborative monitoring, control, and surveillance of fisheries.
The U.S. Embassy in Suva, Fiji, which covers Tuvalu, opened an American Space in Funafuti at the National Library and Archives in 2018. The American Space remained open during the pandemic and continued to welcome visitors and host programs, for example, engaging youth on climate and the environment. There are multiple U.S. exchange and education programs for Tuvalu participants, including the popular Fulbright exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and the U.S.–South Pacific Scholarship programs (USSP). Approximately 37 alumni from Tuvalu have participated in USG-sponsored exchange programs. Virtual exchange programs continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including an IVLP project to promote intellectual property rights. Since 1994, the USSP has provided opportunities for four undergraduate and graduate students from Tuvalu to study in the United States.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The United States has minimal trade and investment with Tuvalu. Tuvalu is a party to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, which provides access to U.S. fishing vessels to fish in waters under the jurisdiction of Pacific Island parties in exchange for a license fee from the U.S. industry. Under a separate Economic Assistance Agreement associated with the Treaty, the United States government currently provides $21 million per year to the FFA for the Pacific Island parties.
Tuvalu’s Membership in International Organizations
Tuvalu and the United States belong to several of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Pacific Community, and the Secretariat of the Regional Environmental Programme. Tuvalu also belongs to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), of which the United States is a Dialogue Partner. Tuvalu served as Chair of the PIF from 2019-2020.
Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Tuvalu has no embassy in Washington, D.C., but Tuvalu’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York is also accredited as ambassador to the United States.
More information about Tuvalu is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
CIA World Factbook Tuvalu Page
USAID Tuvalu Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics