Maui News

Schatz Seeks to Strengthen US-Oceania Ties in Strategic Competition Act

May 2, 2021, 3:43 PM HST
* Updated May 1, 7:50 AM
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The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved the Strategic Competition Act, a major bipartisan legislation that reaffirms and strengthens America’s foreign policy commitment to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. 

The legislation includes six provisions authored by US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) that will elevate Oceania’s role in the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and ensure that the US government is aligning its diplomatic mission to build on the cultural, historical and familial bonds that bind Americans together with the people of Oceania.

“We have deep ties to the Oceania community grounded in our shared commitment to respecting human rights and the rule of law, protecting marine resources, and combating the global climate crisis,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This bill firms up our foreign policy commitment to Oceania by ensuring that we are aligning all the tools of US diplomacy to strengthen people-to-people ties and support the economic needs and long-term resilience goals of our allies and partners in the region.”  

The Schatz provisions included in the bipartisan bill would:

  • Establish a statement of policy about the importance of elevating the entire Oceania region in US national security and economic considerations and working with our allies and partners, including Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, to accomplish shared goals in the region, such as maritime security, illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, environmental protection and disaster preparedness;
  • Require the secretary of State to create a strategic roadmap for strengthening US engagement with the countries of Oceania, including an analysis of opportunities to deepen cooperation with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, to address shared concerns and goals in pursuit of security and resiliency in the countries of Oceania;
  • Ensure that the secretary of State and the US Agency for International Development administrator include all independent least developed and developing countries of Oceania in existing strategic planning and multi-sector program evaluation processes so that the United States aligns its foreign assistance mission in Oceania to advance the long-term growth, governance, economic development and resilience of allies and partners in the region;
  • Require the Peace Corps director to submit a report on strategies to reasonably and safely expand Peace Corps volunteers in Oceania where operational challenges related to the safety and security of its volunteers currently limit its ability to deploy volunteers to more places in support of helping address the social, economic and development needs of countries in the region.  Importantly, the provision would not change or otherwise interfere with the independent mission of the Peace Corps, which has been an integral feature to ensuring the Peace Corps’ access around the world;
  • Require the secretary of State to provide Congress information on the feasibility of establishing a US-based public-private sponsored Oceania Security Dialogue to amplify the voices of leaders from Oceania countries with US policymakers and experts to help explore and discuss regional economic, diplomatic, and national security issues; and
  • Establish a sense of Congress about the impact that IUU fishing has on the economies of Oceania and require the secretary of State to provide a report assessing the use of advanced maritime domain awareness technologies to combat IUU fishing in Oceania, support regional fisheries management, and counter malign foreign influence in the region.

In addition to the Schatz provisions, the bill reasserts America’s commitment to universal values, including a longstanding commitment to human rights and civil society aimed at strengthening democracy.

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