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Climate change, transnational crime, tuna resources discussed

By Taina Kami Enoka APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 29, 2011) – The United States of America has shown its willingness to help Samoa anywhere it can.

It follows two days of meetings between a top United States delegation led by Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Public Affairs, Kurt M. Campbell and local officials.

Among the issues discussed were climate change, transnational crime patrols, water resources, quality of life, tuna fishing and more.

Accompanying Mr Campbell were the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, USAID Assistant Administrator Nisha Biswal and Office of the Secretary of Defense South/Southeast Asia Principal Director Brigadier General Simcock.

In some areas, the discussions quickly came to fruition.

The delegation donated $50,000 for the Scientific Research Organization Samoa (SROS) and $2 million to renovate the Tuasivi and Leulumoega hospitals. And then there was the undisclosed amount to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP).

But that’s not all.

When the delegation returns home on 2 July, they will look into more opportunities.

The visit was the first of annual visits to the region.

During a press conference yesterday, they assured that it would be an annual event.

For the first time, the United States is sending the "largest comprehensive delegation" in history to attend the 40th Pacific Islands Forum meeting later this year.

"It is a meeting that they we will be attending from now on. And when we are there, we are going to articulate several key areas where we are going to work closely with our Pacific Island partners," Mr Campbell says.

In Samoa, they have had a series of meetings. One of them was a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

Climate change and developing closer bilateral relationship were key issues on the agenda.

"This is part of an American commitment a strong historical commitment in the Pacific," Mr Campbell says.

There were also meetings with key Government officials and civil society members.

The delegation composition is a reflection of the US Government efforts in the Pacific.

"We are here to underscore our commitment to development, diplomacy and defence," says Mr Campbell. "These are the combined areas of our strong engagement in the Asia Pacific region. We are travelling through the Pacific listening to how we can be more helpful on a range of issues."

Admiral Walsh met yesterday with representatives of police and the maritime unit where discussions on transnational crimes in the region took place.

"We have found that there is a number of areas where the US Navy can be of more assistance to Samoa. Support for developments in the economic exclusive zones, legal and unregulated fishing and environmental concerns," Admiral Walsh says.

These concerns are part of the broader concerns in the Pacific.

"And what we have learned in the course of our conversations earlier today is that there are steps we can take in sharing information, understanding what the technical challenges are with wide expanse of the sea and patrol requirements associated with law enforcement actions."

Brigadier General Simcock stresses that a lot of people tend to forget the "long standing relationship between America and Samoa."

The visit is to build on that relationship.

Law enforcement people have had training programmes with the international military training programme in their schools in the United States.

That is is just one example.

Asked whether the visit was a reflection of concerns on China’s presence in the region, Mr Campbell says the United States and China have had very productive discussions.

"We have made it clear that the United States welcomes China’s role in the Pacific well-being as a whole."

He says they will like to work closely with china.

With the shortage of fuel that will affect electricity, the solution is renewable energy in which China has enormous capabilities.

Ms Biswal says the capabilities China has are similar to countries like India and Korea who have their own stories to tell.

Yesterday, journalists were reminded that the relationship between the United States and Samoa go way back.

And in times of natural disasters that have struck different countries in the world, Samoa with its tsunami two years ago, the first country to assist was the United States with an initial $100,000.

Admiral Walsh says the tsunami also sounded a need for a better warning system and logistical support.

As for the future, Mr Campbell says there will be a transition of trade and investment into a Pacific Chamber of Commerce.

"Clearly the future of prosperity of Pacific island nations is reliant on economic growth…critical to overcoming challenges, growth is from policies that attract investment, facilitate trade and strengthening government capabilities," says Ms Biswal.

The U.S Ambassador to Samoa, David Huebner says that "in Samoa, it’s not the new buildings."

There is the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps in Samoa where more than 2000 volunteers have worked here in teaching projects, partnerships, outreach programmes and more.

The Survivor series is here for six months and expected to make US$8 million that will go to hundreds of people.

These, says Ambassador Huebner are the realities of the United States presence and aid in the region and substantially permeated through the Pacific.

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