By  Ambassador Amy J. Hyatt

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the United States entering the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Since that time, we have forged long-standing, mutually beneficial partnerships with countries of the Pacific.  As Ambassador to Palau, I’ve seen firsthand the strength of the U.S. relationship with Palau and U.S. commitment to growth and prosperity in this region.  The Pacific has been, and always will be, an enduring foreign policy priority for the United States.  And the United States knows that we have no better friend in the Pacific than Palau. [restrict]

The U.S. delegation to this year’s Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa showcased that the U.S. and Pacific Island countries are working more closely than ever before.  We are collaborating on security and economic issues, addressing environmental concerns, improving regional health outcomes, and strengthening people-to-people ties.  In a world filled with increasingly complex challenges, our partnership is more vital than ever before.

During these challenging times, rest assured that the United States is committed to the defense and security of Palau, today as always.  As a leading security provider for the Pacific region, our commitment to protect our allies and friends is ironclad. America is grateful to have Palau as a friend and ally and especially to those Palauans who are serving in the US Armed Forces or have served. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice and we honor them. We recently celebrated a proud moment in the strong relationship between the United States and Palau to recognize the historic acceptance of 2 Palauan students into the US Naval Academy.

We are committed to expanding bilateral trade and investment in the region.  Two-way trade between the United States and the Pacific totaled $943 million in 2016.  Additionally, last year, we concluded negotiations on the Tuna Treaty, extending fishing access through 2022 and supporting regional economic growth and development.  The United States continues to work with Pacific law enforcement agencies to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.  One of our greatest tools for maritime security is the U.S. Coast Guard “shiprider” program, and Palau is an active participant in that program.

A key to future economic growth in the region is the ability to preserve our shared maritime resource – the Pacific Ocean.  The United States is a contributing member to the Pacific Community (SPC) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and supports their work to protect the ocean and manage oceanic and coastal fisheries resources.

A healthy economy requires a healthy citizenry.  Americans and Pacific Islanders are working together to address public health threats posed by communicable and non-communicable diseases. HHS and CDC staff work closely with health care providers in Palau, providing over $8 million dollars annually to ensure Palauan children receive life-saving immunizations, new mothers receive adequate pre-natal care, timely health screenings are performed, and mental health treatment and special services for the disabled are available.

These are only a few of the areas where Palau and the United States partner every day.  We are stronger when we work together.  The continued close partnership between our two countries is critical to ensure regional peace and prosperity.  We are resolute in our determination to remain on this course and are optimistic about our shared future. [/restrict]