PM raises several development issues with visiting US Undersecretary of State

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“A permanent American presence in the Solomon Islands will strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Solomon Islands, and bodes well for the bilateral partnership in the future,” acknowledged the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Hon. Manasseh Sogavare received on Sunday a US government delegation led by Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

This visit builds on previous interactions between Prime Minister Sogavare and the United States, including the visit of White House National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell, the Foreign Minister’s engagements with the US announcement by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier this year.

Discussions focused on ongoing SI-US development partnerships.

On the United States’ intention to reopen its embassy in Honiara since the office closed in 1993, notes Prime Minister Sogavare, the progress made with the establishment of the United States Embassy in Honiara after 29 years, a response to SIG’s call for more meaningful engagement with the United States. .

The Prime Minister also welcomes the appointment of a Chargé d’Affaires in Honiara to oversee operations and bilateral relations in the interim until a substantive Head of Mission is appointed.

“A permanent American presence in the Solomon Islands will strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Solomon Islands, and bodes well for the bilateral partnership in the future,” acknowledged the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Sogavare expressed the country’s hope to see an ambassador installed at the head of the mission, in order to fully engage with the government on all development issues.

The Strengthening Competitiveness, Agriculture, Livelihoods, and Environment (SCALE) Program is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that supports programs that help communities adapt to the impacts negative effects of global climate change and supports disaster risk reduction programs to build local disaster capacity. answer.

The US$25 million SCALE program currently focused on the province of Malaita specifically aims to promote and fund projects on agricultural and forest land management, increasing economic benefits by promoting community forest enterprises or alternative livelihoods. alternative livelihoods and strengthening links between communities and public sector actors.

Appreciating the program, the Prime Minister expressed the need to diversify SCALE’s support and scale up projects nationwide by expanding to other provinces in the near future. Prime Minister Sogavare stressed that this project must be better aligned with the National Development Strategy (NDS 2016 – 2035).

The Solomon Islands also benefits from the Threshold Program of the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an innovative and independent U.S. foreign aid agency designed to promote economic growth and alleviate global poverty.

Earlier this year, MCC and the Government signed the MCC-SI THP, formalizing a partnership that aims to reduce poverty and encourage sustainable development. The MCC-SI THP will address constraints through the Land Access for Tourism Investment Facilitation (ALTIF) Project and the Forest Valorization Project.
Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed the progress made in rolling out the MCC Threshold Program since it was signed in January this year, adding that the Solomon Islands would like to see a diversification of support to other critical areas of development such as projects. infrastructure and energy to boost economic activity and productivity.

He said a draft partnership framework for development cooperation with the United States has been submitted to the US government for review and discussion.

“Solomon Islands is keen to receive formal comments from the US government on the proposal and would like to begin discussions on a partnership framework for development cooperation. The framework is well-intentioned and would serve to effectively manage and oversee the growing US-SI partnership and collaboration.

The Peace Corps Program in the country was also discussed at the meeting. In 2019, nearly 20 years after leaving the Solomon Islands, the Peace Corps announced it would re-establish operations in the country.

The two countries agree, negotiations on the draft Peace Corps agreement continue and hope that SI-US will finalize the document for signature this year.

Prime Minister Sogavare reaffirms that his government will work closely with the Office of the Peace Corps to conclude negotiations on the draft Peace Corps Agreement this year.

In terms of mine clearance and UXO removal, the United States has provided more than $6.2 million since 1993 to eliminate explosive hazards and build local capacity. The United States, in partnership with Australia and non-governmental organizations, trained the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) techniques. The assistance also developed Solomon Islands’ capacity to locate and track remaining UXO contamination.

Prime Minister Sogavare expressed his sincere gratitude to the US government for supporting MPNSC’s request and prioritizing the issue of the legacy of war.

“Solomon Islands places enormous importance on mine clearance and UXO clearance. The presence of UXO can hamper development efforts and compromise the safety and security of communities and the public.

The government is also grateful to the United States for its support of the COVID 19 vaccine in the country.
He thanked and appreciated the assistance and support of the United States in the supply of Pfizer vaccines, which enabled the vaccination to be rolled out throughout the country.

Regarding the Bilateral Economic Relations Agreement and the US Treaty, Prime Minister Sogavare acknowledges the US assistance provided under the Economic Assistance Agreement and Solomon Islands welcomes the increase in the program economic assistance. He said additional commitments should not distract from Pacific island parties wishing to increase the value of their tuna.

Market access for Solomon Islands kava products in the United States is an important area that could strengthen the economic partnership between the two countries. International exports of Solomon Islands kava have increased, but access to international markets has been an issue. Exports of kava from the Solomon Islands have grown steadily over the past ten years. The total volume of kava exported in 2019 and 2021 was 14.7 MT and 18.1 MT respectively.

The United States is quickly becoming a popular market for Pacific Island kava products. Fiji, in particular, has taken full advantage of this opportunity. In 2020, it was reported that Fiji earned 15 million in revenue from its US market.

The Solomon Islands would like to see their kava products enter the US market. Therefore, the government welcomes any support the United States can provide to enable market access for our kava products.

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman also delivered President Joe Biden’s invitation to Prime Minister Sogavare to visit the White House in September.

The PM will officially respond to the invitation.

Source: OPMC

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