Bula Vinaka.
I want to welcome Secretary Blinken, his delegation, and the American media to Fiji. We are the crossroads of a 40 million square kilometre patch of Pacific Ocean that is governed by the Pacific Islands and our neighbours, Australia and New Zealand. Most world maps cut our region right down the middle, so you may not know by looking, but we are the largest ocean continent in the world.
That big, blue responsibility is linked to the wellbeing of every person on Earth. Despite that, Fiji and our small state neighbours have felt, at times –– to borrow an American term –– like “fly-over” countries. Small dots spotted from plane windows of leaders en route to meetings where they spoke about us rather than with us, if they spoke of us at all. When the USA signalled its intent to leave the Paris Agreement, we felt forgotten by a superpower.
So, of course, we welcomed President Biden’s promise to the world that America was back – Mr Secretary, your being here shows that promise was more than words. We’ve just held the most historic and comprehensive meeting ever between Fiji and the USA and a wider meeting with our fellow Pacific leaders. We believe that both mark the start of a more direct partnership between Fiji and the USA and a new era for America in the Blue Frontier of the Pacific.
The last significant American presence we felt in Fiji were the soldiers we welcomed here during the Second World War. We face a new war today –– a climate war that is devastating our people unlike any conflict before it. There is no region of the world, not in the Pacific, not in Europe, not in the Americas, that will be spared its consequences.
14 cyclones have struck Fiji since we signed the Paris Agreement, each storm driving home the urgency of adapting and curbing global emissions.  This week, Ba Town, an hour’s drive from here, was flooded for the third time in three months. Six communities in Fiji have been moved to escape the rising seas with 40 others in the queue. Not to mention the bleaching reefs and erratic weather patterns that threaten our people’s livelihoods and ways of life.
We aren’t alone. When Pacific Islands are sinking, Texas is freezing, California is burning, and New York City is flooding. When a superstorm misses Fiji, American Samoa is in the crosshairs. And Hawaii, Guam and the FSM know many of Fiji’s struggles because they live them.
Fiji and America are both working in support of a more secure, stable and peaceful region, but there is far more we need to do together as partners in this battle of our lives. As a nation that shares many of our struggles and our values, America is uniquely positioned to be a direct partner to Fiji for peace and climate security not only across the Indo-Pacific, but here in the Blue Pacific. And not only because America is a large emitter that must cut its carbon emissions, but because it is an innovator that can create climate solutions. And we need American might and its minds – as well as pioneering solutions and investments -- here, at the shores of this Blue Frontier.
Our discussions covered our commitment to uphold the rule of law in our region, including the Law of the Sea. As we move to sustainably manage and protect our ocean, we’ve sought to jointly up our game through our navies, militaries, and our Fiji Police Force through maritime surveillance cooperation to end illegal fishing, combat transnational crime, and ensure that this is an ocean decade of exploration and discovery –– not exploitation and destruction.  In this respect, we also discussed the opportunities for greater participation from the USA in the Australian-funded Blackrock facility in Fiji to coordinate joint responses to catastrophic event, not just in Fiji, but in the wider Pacific.
During our meeting, we welcomed America’s net-zero commitment as well as Mr Blinken’s recent pledge to decarbonise operations within the State Department. Fijians believe in leading by example as well, which is why –– despite our emissions being negligible –– we committed to achieving net-zero by 2050. Mitigation and adaptation both require access to technology we do not have and which major market powers like the USA can help us deploy –– including in blue shipping. And that means jobs for Fijians, jobs in cutting edge technology and from nature that both can build the future.
We also spoke on Fiji’s role in leading a regional recovery from the pandemic. With the support of the US and our development partners, over 90% of Fijians over the age of 15 are fully vaccinated, which allowed us to welcome American visitors from 1 December and we hope to welcome many more, including you, your families and the many Americans watching us today. We’re also keen to open more of  the US export market to our farmers. We’d love to export more of our kava –– as well as ginger, taro, turmeric, sugar, Fijian chocolates, cosmetics and other Fijian-grown and Fijian-made products to the US. We also welcome US firms looking to participate in our growing outsourcing services sector. We have young, well-spoken, English speaking, tech savvy and frankly, very friendly, people who would love the opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen, this visit re-affirms that the ocean and islands that fall under our region’s responsibility are too vital for our people and for the planet for any leader to fly over or overlook.  Mr Secretary, your visit to Fiji is the first in almost 40 years. But today has not been about the last four decades. It is about the many more to come; decades that our nations will meet together as enduring partners, with shared values, enlisted with humanity in overcoming the greatest challenges of our time.
Now, it is my privilege to invite my friend Secretary Blinken to make his remarks.
Mr Secretary.