The U.S. pledge to triple fund the region’s fisheries will help ensure the future of their fishing and tourism industries. It will also help the Pacific Islands in the wake of the recent agreement between China and the Solomon Islands on the sharing of resources. In a statement, the Pacific Islands welcomed the announcement. But it was not the only positive thing to come out of the agreement.
At the forum in Suva, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris assured Pacific island leaders that the U.S. would stay involved. She pledged to triple US aid to the region, up to $60 million a year, for the next decade. Although the funding is subject to congressional approval, some Pacific leaders are trying to balance the rise of China’s ambitions in the region. “We must remain united and stand together against bad actors,” she said in a video address.
While climate change is an important issue for the Pacific, there are a number of other issues on the agenda. The leaders are grappling with tensions between the United States and China, as well as Kiribati’s sudden withdrawal from the forum. The issue of China’s pending efforts to sign deals with countries associated with China and Taiwan has generated much debate. Palau is one of the Pacific island leaders who is ambivalent about China’s bid. However, it has diplomatic, economic, and defense ties with the United States.
While Australia has been largely supportive of the Paris Agreement, many island nations want Australia to do more to protect them. They want Canberra to align its policies with the 1.5C limit. In fact, the survival of Pacific island nations depends on it. The prime minister’s visit to the Pacific islands has also been a chance for Australia to reset ties with its neighbours after a difficult four years under Morrison. While China is increasingly assertive in the region, Australia has stepped up efforts to counter this growing influence.