President Tommy Remengesau Jr. welcomed Australia’s government‘s move to step-up its engagement in the North Pacific, adding that the high-level visit of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop here showed Canberra’s commitment to being a strategic partner in Micronesia.
“We truly appreciate the visit of the Foreign Minister Bishop and the bipartisan senators, we would like to look at this as a sign of Australian commitment as a strategic partner,” Remengesau said in an interview.
Bishop and three other Australian MPs visited Palau and traveled yesterday afternoon to their second leg of the North Pacific tour -the Federated States of Micronesia. The group will also be traveling to the Marshall Islands.
Bishop and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells are representing the government along with the Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Claire Moore, from the Opposition Labor Party.
Remengesau said Australia is considered part of the Pacific family and for small island countries like Palau, the nations look up to them as a leader in ensuring a stable region.
“So while security is a major issue to all of us, we also expect and wants leadership from Australia to be a key partner and advocate for regional peace and security,” Remengesau stated.
Bishop said the meeting with President Tommy and Palau officials is to discuss “shared interest.”
She said the North Pacific tour is envisioned to establish a framework in which “we can work collaboratively together to ensure a peaceful, sustainable economic development here and a safe and secure environment.”
Remengesau also said Australia showed commitment to be an economic partner as well.
He said he specifically asked Bishop in the meeting to promote Palau to Australian investors.
He said investments from Australia’s private sector involvement in Palau will help enhance the partnership to promote economic growth.
Australia also discussed the Pacer Plus free trade deal with Palau.
Palau, FSM, and RMI have not signed the trade deal because of certain terms set by the Compacts of Free Association with the United States.
The agreement, better known as PACER Plus, proposes tariff cuts among signatory nations and said to help small Pacific Island through increased import-export trade and investments.
But because of certain terms set by the Compacts of Free Association with the United States,Palau, FSM, and RMI have not signed the trade deal.
Based on the Most Favored Nation Clause in the Compacts, freely associated states are mandated to provide to the U.S. the same concessions they may give Australia and New Zealand under Pacer Plus.
The United States is Palau major trading partner and import tariffs provide huge revenue for the government.
The group also met Palauan women leaders while here. (Bernadette H. Carreon)