Strengthening the U.S.-Pacific Partnership
By Verinda Fike, Regional Director, Indo-Pacific
USTDA is ramping up its commitment to the Pacific Islands.
In September 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted the first-ever U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit, which convened more than a dozen leaders in Washington, DC. As an outcome of the Summit, the White House designated the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) as the lead implementing agency of its newly created Pacific Island Strategic Infrastructure Initiative and co-lead of the Transportation Partnership with the Pacific Islands.
These initiatives aim to catalyze sustainable, climate-smart infrastructure investment throughout the Pacific Islands using USTDA’s project preparation and partnership-building toolkit in sectors including clean energy, transportation, digital and healthcare infrastructure.
To help fulfill these commitments, in late February and early March 2023, USTDA engaged in scoping missions to the Pacific Islands, with stops in the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, and Tonga. USTDA is also supporting an open Call for Proposals for the Pacific Islands.
These scoping missions served as opportune visits to establish new partnerships and directly solicit infrastructure proposals from key Pacific Island markets. These island countries face unique challenges, including pronounced climate change impacts, severe weather events, limited digital and transport connectivity, supply chain disruptions, and food security issues, among others. Discussing these challenges firsthand enabled USTDA to assess current infrastructure needs and discuss potential ways to partner with local public and private sector entities to advance sustainable infrastructure solutions.
USTDA participated in the U.S.-Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Dialogue Senior Officials Meeting, led by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and met with ministries and private sector partners across the Pacific Islands to discuss potential areas of cooperation. We are now evaluating potential project leads for the modernization and buildout of ports and airports, cold storage facilities, digital infrastructure, telemedicine and healthcare solutions, electrical grids and clean energy.
During the scoping missions, USTDA announced the expansion of its signature regional aviation initiative, which is now called the U.S.-Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands Aviation Cooperation Program. The initiative will now undertake dedicated programming across the Pacific Islands. Looking forward, USTDA will also host a Pacific Island Country delegation to the United States for a Ports Modernization Reverse Trade Mission, scheduled for fall 2023.
USTDA bookended its scoping missions with visits to New Zealand and Australia, with whom the Agency has partnered to jointly support quality infrastructure and human capacity building to advance the resilience and prosperity of the Pacific Islands.
In a short amount of time, USTDA has catalyzed new partnerships while deepening its existing relationships in the Pacific Islands. Our efforts will soon lead to an expanded portfolio of project preparation and partnership-building activities that will promote sustainable infrastructure and greater economic resilience across the region, while introducing high-quality U.S. solutions. USTDA is proud to be on the front lines of the U.S. government’s efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Pacific Partnership.
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