One of the most critical roles of the United State Congress is to serve as a separate, independent and co-equal partner in charting the best way forward for our country’s role in our world. For just as our Hawai‘i is a part and leader of the Indo-Pacific, so is our country a part and leader of our international community.
These are extraordinary and challenging times for our world and our country’s role. Just some of our larger challenges include the continued rise of China, authoritarianism, global terrorism and climate change. These issues hold both great opportunity and risk, and how we address them will largely define the rest of the Twenty-First Century.
My Priorities in the Pacific
My efforts in our foreign policy extend to all of these issues internationally. However, central to our foreign policy in this century is the Indo-Pacific region, stretching from the West Coast through the Pacific and Asia to well into the Indian Ocean. This region holds over half of the world’s population and seven of the top ten largest standing armies in the world. Sixty percent of global maritime trade flows through Asia, and nine of the world’s ten busiest seaports are in the Indo-Pacific. In this “Pacific Century,” Hawai‘i should and will continue to play a leading role in our country’s overall foreign relations. Hawai‘i is the bridge between the United States and Asia, and I am proud to champion our leadership and values here in Congress as your representative.
My efforts include co-founding and co-chairing the first-ever Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus to collectively advocate on issues critical to the Pacific Islands region, including Hawai‘i. I have also proudly testified to numerous House committees, including the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, on the importance of Hawai‘i, the Pacific Islands and the Indo-Pacific region to our national security.
Through my Pacific Islands Caucus, I am leading efforts to reassure our Pacific Island allies of the United States’ continued commitment to our part of the world. This includes the Boosting Long-Term U.S. Engagement in the Pacific Act, also known as the BLUE Pacific Act, which I first introduced in the 116th Congress (2019-2020). This bill provides a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy for the United States in the Pacific Islands, focusing on increasing our diplomatic presence and engagement, enhancing security and development assistance and promoting shared values such as good governance and the rule of law. Through meetings with administration officials, diplomats from Pacific Island countries and briefings for congressional staff, we are working diligently to raise awareness of the Pacific Islands and their importance to our national security.
I am also working hard to fight for Hawaii’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific, specifically through close cooperation with and support for our East-West Center. Founded by Congress in 1960 and located at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa, the East-West Center is a national educational institution dedicated to fostering better relations between the United States and the countries and peoples of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The Center’s programs are widely known throughout the region and have a measurable, positive impact on our foreign relations. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I helped secure $19.7 million for the East-West Center for Fiscal Year 2021 and continue working to enact appropriations legislation that provides stable funding for Fiscal Year 2022.
Through my assignment on the House Appropriations Committee, I have also fought for key funding priorities that align with our country’s interests and values. This includes increased funds for the Peace Corps; educational and cultural exchange programs; development assistance programs, including for global health, basic education and women’s empowerment; humanitarian and disaster assistance; contributions to international organizations, including the United Nations and peacekeeping; and environment programs to promote biodiversity and combat wildlife trafficking. I will continue to support funding for programs that advance our foreign policy goals of peace, prosperity and democracy abroad.