SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good afternoon, everyone. This is not only a happy occasion but a genuinely historic one. Premier, it’s wonderful to stand with you today. Last year, President Biden announced his intent to recognize Niue. And he filled that promise today by announcing U.S. recognition of Niue as a sovereign and independent state.
The important work of exchanging letters has happened, and we have established diplomatic relations between our countries.
This partnership begins a new chapter, as well as reinforcing existing friendships, and I think it has the prospect of only deepening the bonds that already exist between our countries.
We’re celebrating shared history, shared values, and ever stronger people-to-people ties. I think what we have is an affirmation fundamentally of a shared commitment to democracy, to combating the truly existential challenge of our time – climate change – to supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific region that benefits all people in the Pacific.
President Biden today with all of our colleagues from the Pacific Island nations emphasized this fundamental fact: The United States is a Pacific nation, with millions of citizens of Pacific heritage. We have a long history of working with Niue to maintain a secure and prosperous region. And we deeply appreciate Niue’s invaluable contributions to that effort on negotiations of the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, combating illegal fishing, supporting the long-term economic resilience of island nations.
We very much applaud Niue’s sustainable development commitments and very progressive approach to marine protection and to ocean conservation. Niueans participate in our IVLP, our international exchange program, the Youth Pacific Leadership – Leaders Program, the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs. And one of the things that I think we also heard today was the value, the profound value, of those programs, and we are committed to strengthening them and to deepening them.
And of course, we have many Americans who have experienced and continue to experience Niuean hospitality who live and work there.
The United States and the Pacific Islands have a strong partnership that is rooted in mutual respect and shared interest. And Niue is playing a very important role in the regional institutions, which we deeply value and seek to help strengthen. We’ll work together and with others to boost Pacific regionalism.
We also are working hard to align our own Pacific Strategy with the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. We look forward to participating in the upcoming PIF Leaders Summit to support Pacific voices, Pacific choices, the Pacific way. We’re committed to partnering on the critical issues of our time – as already mentioned, climate change, but also economic and infrastructure investment, cultural and educational opportunities, people-to-people engagement.
Today’s recognition, today’s establishment of diplomatic relations, is a historic step in this process. We could not be more grateful for our newest partner, and Premier, it is my pleasure to now give the podium to you. (Applause.)
PREMIER TAGELAGI: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Firstly, (in Niuean), and good afternoon, everyone.
As we all do in the Pacific, we always give thanks to our heavenly father for his blessings and his guidance that brought us all together here this afternoon.
Secretary Blinken, and your staff, thank you, and thank you again for welcoming me and my little tiny, weeny delegation – (laughter) – (inaudible) to this beautiful city of Washington, D.C.
Today is a historic day for us, especially for myself and my leadership, and for our small nation, the commemoration of diplomatic relations between Niue and the United States of America. Today we are – celebrate shared history, common values, and people-to-people’s ties between our two nations.
We have been looking forward for this day since the announcement was made by the U.S. last year that it would recognize Niue as a sovereign state. We have a small community of U.S. citizens living in Niue, and I believe we also have a community of Niueans who have chosen to make your country their home. May our friendly relations extend to the respect and care of our peoples.
Although we make things official today, we have a long history of friendly relations with the U.S. Since the conception in 2013, we have had a number of young adults participated in the Young Pacific Leaders Conference organized by the U.S. Department of State. In 2021, Niue took part in the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs program, which is supported by the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, which has provided the women in our community with the skills and basic models required to pursue their own businesses. We have had over 40 government officials receive training from the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, who became alumni in 2018. And these graduates have now advanced their careers in the service.
The Peace Corps volunteers began serving in Niue in 1994 until 2002, and we look forward to its revival. I don’t know why they left. In 1997, Niue ratified the Maritime Boundaries Treaty with the U.S., defining our maritime boundaries with American Samoa. Niue is a party to the South Pacific Tuna Treaty, and most recently we signed a memorandum of understanding for the 2023 fishing arrangements. We are grateful. We are grateful for the support and training opportunities provided by the United States to date, and we look forward to deepening our ties through more engagement.
We pray that the relationship between our two countries will be of a harmonization, unity, and prosperity. And I thank you very much. [In Niuean.] May God bless us all. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s now my pleasure to invite you forward to sign.
STAFF: So the joint statement that will be signed by the Secretary and the Premier reads as follows:
“On this occasion, we celebrate the shared history, common values, and people-to-people ties between our nations. We affirm our joint commitment to deepen our cooperation as equal and sovereign partners guided by respect, genuine engagement, and partnership. Going forward, we intend to cooperate with each other on matters of shared priority, including climate change, ocean stewardship, renewable energy, education, culture, sustainable development, democracy, human rights, and good governance. We acknowledge the importance of Pacific regional institutions, including the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Community, and we look forward to working together with Niue to further bolster connections within the Pacific region.
“The establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Niue marks an historical achievement that will further reinforce our friendship and deepen our bonds for many years to come. Through this joint statement, we acknowledge this achievement. We are connected by our history, our Pacific Ocean, and our people, and we look forward to our continued and strengthened partnership.”
Signed Secretary Antony J. Blinken, United States of America; Premier Dalton Tagelagi, Niue.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
(The joint statement was signed.)
STAFF: It’s official. (Applause.)