Talks are set to resume on negotiating the agreements between the U.S and its freely associated states in the Pacific, following the appointment of a new U.S special negotiator.
The Compacts of Free Association outline economic and military ties and guarantee billions of dollars in financial support between the U.S and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.
While the treaties with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia are due to expire next year and Palau’s will lapse in 2024, talks on renewing them have been on ice since December 2020.
The stalemate appeared to break this week, with the US State Department announcing Joseph Yun as a new special presidential envoy for the negotiations.
The President of the Federated States of Micronesia, David Panuelo, said he expected the new envoy to visit the region in May.
Palau’s President, Surangel Whipps Junior, said Yun’s appointment was a welcome change from the previous US negotiating team, which the Micronesian states had refused to work with.
“It became very clear to me at that time that with the past negotiator, they didn’t understand the full need, and the close relationship that these islands had to the US and, and the importance and could not get the the perspective of the whole of US government to address really, issues that we are facing, especially on economic growth, and meeting our basic needs,” he said.
“We’re very hopeful that the Biden administration, the US Congress now understands the importance of this agreement, the importance of really taking an objective view and reviewing everything. And that’s the purpose of these negotiations. It’s not for the US to say, ‘this is what we’re giving you and take it or leave it.’ That’s not the way we operate, because we have serious challenges and they must be addressed.”
Patricia O’Brien, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Programme, said negotiating the compacts would be a mammoth task because of the number of US government departments involved.
She added that negotiations will be even more complex with the Marshall Islands, given the need to address the ongoing impacts of nuclear testing