Photo: Department of Prime Minister & NEC

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has welcomed the United States’ increasing involvement in the Pacific.

Brown, who is also the chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, made the comments in the U.S-Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Dialogue in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on Monday.

Brown, who had recently attended the Group of Seven (G7) meeting at the invitation of Japan, acknowledged there was much work to do in strengthening ties in the Pacific.

“While I will admit that there is a level of disappointment that the much-anticipated visit by President (Joe) Biden, could not eventuate, we remain grateful to the U.S Government for working at short notice to ensure appropriate representation at this engagement this afternoon,” Brown said.

The U.S were represented in Papua New Guinea by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

“However, we welcome the invitation of the President to meet again in DC this Fall, and we look forward to receiving further details on that.”

Brown said the meeting was “a demonstration of our commitment to continue to strengthen our partnership and building on the very successful first U.S–Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington, DC last September 2022”.

“It also provides an opportunity to consider a number of key updates and necessary actions on issues of key importance.”

Brown said since September 2022, the global discourse had been dominated by Russia’s “illegal invasion of Ukraine, which has had ripples across the globe”.

“The impact of this event has materialised in the Pacific through increased costs in food and energy and equally concerning– exacerbating supply chain difficulties,” Brown said.
“It is in times such as this, that our partnerships become fundamental to our ability to address these exogenous shocks and challenges.”

Brown said as a longstanding Forum Dialogue Partner, “we are encouraged by the U.S.’ recognition and application of the Forum Leaders’ Blue Pacific Principles for Dialogue and Engagement.”

“The Forum is central to Pacific regionalism and collective action, and we are committed to progressing our priorities through collective engagement with partners under the auspices of the Forum family,” he said.

“On this note, I was very encouraged by the recent outcome of the G7 Leaders’ Summit which included recognition of and support for our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. As well as other significant regional priorities, such as debt restructuring, and financial systems reform.”

Brown said he welcomed the active engagement and joint advocacy of the U.S with the Pacific Islands Forum on priorities such as climate action, development financing, and security.

“The agenda before us is critical to forging strengthened partnerships, and our expectations to achieve our broad ambitions remain high. I wish us all a successful discussion,” he said.

In a joint media statement after the Dialogue, the regional leaders and Secretary Blinken reaffirmed “our shared vision for a resilient Pacific region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion, and prosperity”.

“We are committed to bolstering Pacific regionalism, with a strong and united Pacific Islands Forum at its centre. We will continue to work together to tackle shared challenges such as the climate crisis, to advance inclusive economic growth and social equity for the people of the Pacific and to jointly advocate on shared priorities.

“We reaffirm our commitment to comprehensively address the legacies of conflict and the promotion of nuclear nonproliferation, and we acknowledge the nuclear legacy of the Cold War. We remain committed to addressing the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ ongoing environmental, public health concerns, and other welfare concerns.

“We support the vision of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and recognise its centrality in the strengthening partnership between the United States and the Pacific Islands Forum. This meeting builds on three decades of close cooperation between the United States and the Pacific Islands Forum and we look forward to the Second U.S – Pacific Islands Forum Summit in 2023.”

Cook Islands will host the 2023 Pacific Islands Leaders Forum from 6-10 November in Rarotonga.