During a courtesy call by US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell on Friday, September 6, 2013, President Loeak conveyed greetings of “Iokwe” and a warm welcome to Secretary Jewell, on behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He described Secretary Jewell’s visit to Majuro as a very important one, not only for all Pacific Islands Forum members, but especially the Marshall Islands, given our historical relationship. Secretary Jewell’s visit to the Republic of the Marshall Islands was her first international trip after she became the newly appointed Secretary of Interior in April.
He expressed the Government’s sincere appreciation for the assistance received from US Government during the recent drought, and to President Obama for signing a Disaster Declaration for Marshall Islands, making it possible to access federal funds for the crisis.
On the issues relating to the Compact of Free Association which defines the RMI-US relationship, President Loeak said that “implementation remains a challenge”. He further said, “Too often, our Compact development efforts fail to match up with regional development plans and programs. A simple “roundtable” discussion would go a long way to address this.”
On the Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee (JEMFAC) which has a defined purpose that includes allocating sector Compact assistance to address agreed priorities, President Loeak commented - “Sometimes we feel this is not always a truly mutual discussion”.
The President remarked that the on-going impacts of nuclear testing remain a mutually sensitive issue. “While some issues rest directly with the US Congress, the US Administration can show greater political will and leadership on better addressing the longstanding issues. The RMI’s changed circumstances petition has lingered for 13 years,” stated President Loeak.
When the Compact was formed, the US Congress removed sections on tax and trade that would have benefitted the Marshall Islands. Congress, however, had promised to revisit the issue. The Compact interagency group has agreed that RMI is eligible for at least $20 million dollars compensation. The US Administration has responded favorably to this, but the US Congress has yet to act. “Political will and leadership of the US Administration is needed to push this through,” emphasized President Loeak.
Other issues discussed included The Trust Fund, Climate Change and the Shiprider program, among others.
In conclusion, President Loeak thanked Secretary Jewell for her political support of the Majuro Declaration and stressed the need to work closely together with the Department of Interior and other US agencies to address climate change through practical measures and technical assistance.
- RMI Office of the President, Majuro, Marshall Islands
US DOI Photo: Photo Credit: Lois Shelden -- More Photos