FSM JCN joins US and RMI Representatives to discuss Compact Implementation
HONOLULU, Hawai'i (JCN/FSM Information Service): December 12, 2003 - Representatives from the Federated States of Micronesia, the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands met in Hawaii from December 9 to 11 to discuss Compact approval and implementation following passage of the Amended Compact by the US Congress on November 26, 2003.
After more than four years of intense negotiations the Amended Compact legislation now awaits President Bush's signature, expected by December 17. Thereafter, the FSM approval process will begin immediately.
In his opening remarks at the Honolulu meeting, Lt. Governor Gerson Jackson (Kosrae), Chairman of the FSM's Joint Committee for Compact Negotiations (JCN), reminded all participants of the early difficulties in the negotiations, and how far the talks progressed during the ensuing years. He stated: "We believe the amendments before us represent the best package that could be negotiated at this time," adding that, "the US Administration and Congress have moved very far in substantially addressing concerns expressed by the FSM. We are sincerely grateful for those efforts and for the many positive outcomes that resulted."
The parties then focused on several matters relating to implementation of the arrangements approved by the US Congress, which would follow FSM approval. The US Congress action necessitated several amendments to Compact subsidiary agreements.
Consensus was reached on language to be added to the Fiscal Procedures Agreement reflecting FSM-requested benefits added by the US Congress. These were an improvement in the formula for inflation adjustment, and provision for use of Congress-added funds for assistance to the FSM Judiciary Branch.
Other agreed changes to the Fiscal Procedures Agreement made provision for the use of an annual Supplemental Education Grant of $12.3 million in lieu of continuation of certain US education-related federal programs after September 30, 2004. Pell Grants, I.D.E.A. (Special Education) and Job Corps were not included in this so-called, "cash-out" and will continue.
A major concern of the FSM had been a proposal by the US Administration to terminate FEMA disaster relief assistance in favor of sharply reduced disaster aid from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Despite a last-minute Administration proposal, the US Congress mandated the continuation of FEMA in the FSM for another five years.
Meanwhile, the parties are to negotiate an arrangement that will not compromise the protection currently afforded to the FSM. This highly important change by the US Congress was incorporated into the agreements package during the Honolulu discussions.
Following the talks with the US, the JCN met and decided to recommend approval of the negotiated package. Most FSM negotiating goals have been met, and the FSM's essential interests are protected for the next twenty years and beyond. The JCN members noted that the Compact amendments continue and in many ways improve on the arrangements that have benefited the Nation for the past seventeen years. Notable features are the twenty-year grants period and the new Trust Fund benefits commencing in 2023 and continuing indefinitely.
After the JCN meeting, members departed Honolulu for Pohnpei, to brief the President and other FSM leaders on the outcome.
For further information on this release, please contact:
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