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Forum ready for Clinton road show

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands —  Forum leaders are bracing themselves for a meeting with United States heavyweight Hillary Clinton.

The U.S secretary of state touches down here in Rarotonga this afternoon and the leaders are looking forward to a healthy exchange with her the next two days.

“The last meeting some of the leaders had with her in Washington was not so fruitful,” said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

“She turned up 20 minutes late and had to excuse herself for a senate meeting 15 minutes later. We want a more meaningful discussion, more meaningful outcomes this time around.”

Tuilaepa said the leaders are looking forward to hear what the United States brings to the table particularly during the post-forum partnership dialogue on Friday.

"It will also be an opportunity for America to hear directly from the leaders of the Forum," he said.

"You must remember that the United States has been a post-forum dialogue partner at these Forum meetings for a long time and so far. To my recollection, this is the first time that a person of sufficiently senior status has decided to come and we will certainly look forward to an early exchange with her to learn the kind of message she's going to bring."

China on the other hand, Tuilaepa said, has brought a unique flexibility in its assistance to developing Pacific island states that has helped immensely, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said Wednesday.

"The uniqueness of the Chinese assistance is its flexibility and very quick response by the authorities in China," said Tuilaepa.

"The other thing which I'm always impressed by is that when we come to China there's always that readiness among the leaders to meet with us and to listen. You have to find that in many, many, many big countries -- they're always busy and the leaders are not able to meet with us," he added.

"Hence the idea grows that not only the Pacific Island countries focus on problems they are facing and change, but they should also look to exploit the marine resources for the benefit of their people."
Discussions with the United States regarding the EEZ boundaries with neighboring American Samoa had proved "a very difficult process," he said.

"It is not easy. We have begun the process with America vis a vis American Samoa next door. It only took a couple of days and talks broke off and so it is at that stage right now."

Following this morning’s Forum plenary session the leaders will leave this afternoon for their retreat at Aitutaki Atoll, an hour’s flight from Rarotanga.