Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, next week will become the highest-profile U.S official to visit Samoa, as the Biden administration steps up its outreach to Pacific island nations.
Emhoff will meet with government officials, community leaders and female entrepreneurs during his 13 – 24 July visit to Samoa’s capital, Apia. His communications director, Liza Acevedo, said he will be the first White House principal to visit the country. His visit comes as the U.S is aiming to deepen diplomatic and economic ties to Samoa and other countries in the region.
The renewed focus on the Pacific islands is part of a yearslong strategic shift in U.S focus toward the area. It is meant in part to counter China’s efforts to significantly expand its military, economic and diplomatic influence across the Pacific.
Emhoff will visit Samoa after he leads the official U.S delegation to the opening of the Women’s World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand. The State Department has announced that Samoa will soon receive a dedicated Ambassador on the island, among other diplomatic expansions in the region.
Acevedo said Emhoff’s visit “will underscore the strong U.S relationship with Samoa and the commitment of the United States to the Pacific Islands.”
“The second gentleman will highlight our shared work to address the climate crisis, enhance disaster preparedness, promote sustainable and inclusive economic development, and invest in the economic empowerment of women,” Acevedo said.
Earlier this year, the Peace Corps returned to Samoa for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the U.S. opened its second American Corner in the country, which provides the only free internet on the island of Savaii. The U.S Coast Guard is also helping Samoa patrol its exclusive economic zone and deepening ties with the country’s maritime and fisheries agencies.
President Joe Biden was to have been the first American president to visit Papua New Guinea earlier this year, but he had to cancel the stop to return to Washington for negotiations with Congress over raising the U.S debt limit.