Statement by Ambassador Jesse B. Marehalau
Signing of Documents Amending the
Compact of Free Association
May 14, 2003
Check Against Delivery
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Ambassador Dinger, Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Today is indeed an important milestone in Micronesian history, and signals a new era in relations between the US and the FSM. With the signing of the Compact amendments package, we have strengthened our close bonds of friendship and commitment to peace, democracy and freedom.
The Compact, as amended through these documents, continues important elements of the Compact relationship as agreed seventeen years ago. In this regard we have upheld our responsibility mandated by the original negotiators. But the new agreements go even farther - to provide fuel for a sustainable economy during the next twenty years, at the same time building a mechanism to assist future generations.
Both nations should be proud of our accomplishments in arriving at today's signing. But we must not rest on our laurels. We must recognize that there is much work to be done, much of it as important as that during the past four years, and work that must be completed in the span of just a few months. As US Negotiator Short said at the beginning of our talks, it was his goal at the time of signing to move from facing each other at the table to sitting side-by-side during the Congressional approval process. We share this sentiment, and are hopeful that this goal can be realized - we pledge to do our best to lend our full support to our collective efforts.
It is no secret that there are several areas of the documents which we hope can be improved upon by the US Congress. As we have stated many times in the past, our economic analyses unequivocally show that the reduced levels of assistance in the document as signed severely jeopardize our chances for continued economic growth and development. Similarly we have concerns over the level of funding of the trust fund, the mechanism used for inflation adjustment, and the discontinuation of FEMA disaster assistance.
We remain particularly concerned about federal programs. In recent weeks we have again seen attempts by some in the US Congress to eliminate eligibility for important programs now in place in the FSM. While we cannot tie the hands of the Congress, it must be recognized that the lowered levels of grant assistance extended here by the US do not in any way replace existing federal programs.
We have agreed to the documents before us so as not delay the process unreasonably, and appreciate your understanding of these concerns.
In closing, Mr. Ambassador, these historic documents represent the culmination of years of hard work by dozens of individuals and agencies on our respective negotiating teams. I wish to express our sincere appreciation to all involved in the process for their determination to make our relationship stronger, and to make Micronesia a better place today and for future generations.