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HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (March 17, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Increased U.S. involvement in the Pacific Islands was hinted at during a United States/Pacific Island Nations Joint Commercial Commission meeting in Honolulu last week.

The meeting involved the commission's Trade and Investment Working Group.

[SEE: SUMMARY RECORD: United States/Pacific Island Nations Joint Commercial Commission Meeting of March 12, 2002.]

William F. Brent III, representing the U.S. State Department's Office of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Affairs, delivered opening remarks during which he:

He expressed, on behalf of Secretary of State Colin Powell, America's appreciation of Pacific Island Nations’ sympathy, support and cooperation after September 11.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the United States, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Tuvalu. New Caledonian representatives attended as observers.

It was held at the East-West Center in conjunction with the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders.

The suggestion of more United States government involvement with the Pacific Islands came after years of little engagement in the South Pacific especially. United States Government interest and priorities had moved elsewhere following the end of the Cold War.

The meeting's summary record reported that two workshops had been conducted:

He said with the approval of the meeting, the program would organize a third workshop. This would be on air and sea transportation issues, with particular focus on the Melanesian States.

There was widespread support for this, according to the summary record.

Among the points raised during the discussion were:

It was noted that many studies, both regional and national, had been carried out, and future work should be based on these.

Leading the discussion on market access issues, Fiji proposed investigating the possibility of negotiating a market access arrangement with the U.S.

Fiji undertook to conduct a pre-feasibility study, the summary record said.

Dr. Halapua suggested that the commission might undertake a survey of Pacific Islanders living on the U.S. West Coast to determine their socioeconomic characteristics and needs. This survey would include questions about goods and services that could be delivered by Pacific Island Nations.

Nat Aycox, Area Port Director, Port of Honolulu, U.S. Customs, Department of Treasury, spoke about how the events of September 11 have impacted U.S. Customs priorities.

His presentation stressed that improving sea container security in international trade is a special concern.

Concern was expressed about island nations being used as a transshipment stop for containers containing contraband coming from the United States and heading to other Pacific destinations. This concern related especially to drugs.

Alan Agor, Honolulu Director, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, spoke of the agency’s efforts to thwart terrorist attacks against airlines.

The Pacific Island Nations expressed concern that they were vulnerable as possible staging locations for a terrorist attack on the U.S.

They said they would like to see security training and capacity building activities assisted by the United States. This could be complementary to the support provided by New Zealand and Australia, they said.

The meeting was told the United States planned to conduct airport security seminars in Fiji and Honolulu, to which some Pacific Island Nations have been invited.

Pacific Island Nations security concerns highlighted the need to build stronger island economies through better market access into the United States.

Increased market access to U.S. would help strengthen islands economies and provide additional resources for terrorism prevention.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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