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Case Leads Introduction of Next Generation Framework for United States Policy in Pacific Islands Region

The BLUE Pacific Act Establishes a Comprehensive, Long-term U.S. Foreign Policy in the Pacific Islands Amidst Growing U.S. Engagement and Attention to the Region

Washington, July 30, 2020

(Washington, DC) – The co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus, Congressman Ed Case (D-HI), Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL), Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Don Young (R-AK), have introduced the Boosting Long-term U.S. Engagement in the Pacific, or BLUE Pacific, Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.   

The first-ever Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus was founded last year to promote a greater understanding of this dynamic region in Congress and greater U.S. engagement with the countries and peoples of the region.

The BLUE Pacific Act (H.R. 7797), co-introduced by all five Caucus co-chairs and several of its members, lays out a renewed vision and framework for U.S. foreign policy in the Pacific Islands over the coming generation.

Specifically, the BLUE Pacific Act would establish a comprehensive, long-term U.S. strategy in the Pacific Islands region that:

  • Expands U.S. diplomatic and development presence in the Pacific Islands;
  • Increases U.S. security cooperation and assistance to address regional maritime security, transnational crime and law enforcement issues, including Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing;
  • Deepens and diversifies bilateral and multilateral trade between the U.S. and the region and invests in trade capacity building programs for the region;
  • Supports regional economic and social development in areas of public health, education, infrastructure, climate change resilience and adaptation, and more;
  • Builds on existing regional institutions and frameworks, including efforts of like-minded allies and partners of the United States;
  • Promotes shared values like press freedom and gender equality; and
  • Strengthens people-to-people relationships and civil society. 

The Act also includes proposed authorizations of $1 billion annually over the next five fiscal years to achieve its purposes.

“For decades, the United States has been a consistent albeit quiet partner in the Pacific Islands, with our strong historical ties and shared interests and values,” said Pacific Islands Caucus Co-Chair Ed Case. “We have our own jurisdictions in the Pacific, including Hawai‘i, we are in free association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau, we have generational and cultural ties to the independent countries of the Pacific and to the jurisdictions of other countries, and we have longstanding mutual interests in the advancement of the Pacific Islands with allies and partners such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan.”

“With this bill, we are reaffirming our commitment as a Pacific nation that the United States will not overlook this critical region as we focus our attentions and our foreign policy on Asia and the Indo-Pacific,” Case emphasized. “This legislation will develop new and existing pathways for U.S. engagement in the region in close cooperation with our like-minded allies and partners and existing Pacific Islands frameworks and institutions.”  

“The United States shares a long and storied history with the Pacific Island nations that is built upon the mutual value of democracy,” said Pacific Islands Caucus Co-Chair Ami Bera, who serves as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation. “I’m proud to work with my fellow Co-Chairs to introduce the BLUE Pacific Act, which will strengthen our partnership in the areas of economic development, maritime security, and people-to-people bonds.”

“The BLUE Pacific Act is a great step forward in shoring up our partnerships with Pacific Island nations,” said Pacific Islands Caucus Co-Chair Ted Yoho, who serves as Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation. “As a strategically invaluable region to the United States, it is in both our interests and the interests of our regional partners to strengthen our ties through expanding our military, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic cooperation. The relationship between the U.S and the Pacific Island Nations transcends geography. It is a shared bond that was forged during the hardships during WWII. This turbulent time in human history brought the Pacific Island nations and our nation closer together. That cohesion is cemented in our shared values of human rights, freedom and liberty, which are being challenged by a regional aggressor with imperialist desires. It is my hope that Congress acts quickly on taking up this important and timely legislation as a key element of our strategic shift towards securing the Indo-Pacific.”

“As a Co-Chair of the Pacific Islands Caucus, I am honored to join with my fellow Co-Chairs in introducing the BLUE Pacific Act,” stated Pacific Islands Caucus Co-Chair Brad Sherman, the former Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Non-Proliferation.

“At this critical juncture, this bill is an important step in demonstrating our commitment to our Pacific Island allies and partners. The Indo-Pacific region is key to both our economic and national security, and the islands of the Pacific are a key yet too-often-overlooked part of that region. I hope that Congress acts quickly to take up this important legislation.”

“The relationship between the United States and the Pacific Island nations is one of shared values and a commitment to diplomacy. I have been a long-time advocate for the commercial and strategic importance of the Arctic, but I am also a strong supporter of ensuring that the Pacific Islands are safe, secure, and insulated against regional aggression,” said Pacific Islands Caucus Co-Chair Don Young, Dean of the House and former Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. “I am proud to help introduce the BLUE Pacific Act to foster cooperation, statesmanship, and shared security between the United States and the Pacific Island nations, and I look forward to strengthening our special bond well into the future.”

“The Federated States of Micronesia extends its gratitude to Reps. Ed Case (D-HI), Ami Bera (D-CA), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Don Young (R-AK) who spearheaded the introduction of this important legislation – the BLUE Pacific Act,” stated President David Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia. “If enacted, this bill will help promote long-term U.S. national security interests in the Pacific Island region. The Federated States of Micronesia is pleased to support this legislation and thanks the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus for its leadership to help strengthen diplomatic and security cooperation efforts in the Pacific. We appreciate Congress’s continued focus on the Pacific region, as the Pacific Island countries remain vital partners to the U.S. and its national security interests. This initiative couldn't have come at a better time than now as the US and the Freely Associated States (FAS) countries commence the renegotiations to renew the expiring provisions of their respective Compacts of Free Association.”

“The United States is an important Pacific islands nation. One of its States and parts of two others are Pacific islands. Two of its territories are.

“And it helped develop three groups of Pacific islands into nations with which it is freely associated – including the Republic of the Marshall Islands, which I represent in the U.S.,” Ambassador Gerald M. Zackios of the Republic of the Marshall Islands noted.

“It is the beacon of democracy and the model of economic freedom for all of the Pacific islands,” he continued, “but now the Caucus Co-Chairs have proposed a comprehensive strategy for also increasing the U.S. engagement with other Pacific islands nations as well.”

“The BLUE Pacific Act strategy encompasses: the integrity of our ocean resources – which have too often not been respected; the existential threat of rising sea levels; coping with natural disasters; trade; critical infrastructure needs; health care; education; the Peace Corps; leadership development; maritime security law; law enforcement; and much more. It would tremendously benefit all of us in the Pacific islands and make the United States the region’s premier partner,” Zackios said. 

“As a pre-eminent U.S. ally, Australia highly commends legislative efforts that boost American engagement in the Indo-Pacific. The challenges in this increasingly dynamic part of the world require cohesive, coordinated approaches by like-minded allies,” stated Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos AO of Australia. “We welcome the ongoing work of Congress to strengthen all the tools of government to promote an international rules-based order, including through diplomatic engagement, development projects and infrastructure investments, and enhancing resilience. Australia looks forward to continuing to work with the Pacific Islands Caucus and the rest of Congress to promote a secure, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

“The Pacific Islands face a unique set of challenges, now exacerbated by COVID-19.  New Zealand is one of the region’s top development donors and we value the good cooperation we have in the region with the United States,” stated Ambassador Rosemary Banks of New Zealand. “We look forward to a deepening U.S. engagement in the Pacific Islands, in all the areas set out in the Bill presented by Congressmen Case, Bera, Yoho, Sherman, and Young.”

Other original cosponsors of the BLUE Pacific Act include: Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Michael San Nicolas (D-GU), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Don Bacon (R-NE) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-MP).

A one-page summary of the BLUE Pacific Act is available here; section-by-section summary here; and the bill text here and Congressman Case’s July 30, 2020 speech to the full U.S House on introduction of the BLUE Pacific Act here https://youtu.be/7xUvx94LL8A.

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