BLOG: AN OUTSTANDING WEEK IN SAMOA
If you have read my last few blog posts or followed my recent activity on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, you know that I’ve spent the past week in Apia leading the U.S. delegation to Samoa’s 50th Independence Day celebrations. It was a great several days with a wide array of festivities, sports events, concerts, and even some serious business.
Demonstrating our more than century-long engagement as a Pacific nation and underscoring the Obama Administration’s ongoing regional rebalancing of resources, the United States had the largest, most diverse, and most vibrant foreign presence at the celebrations. I led an official President Delegation appointed by the White House which included Admiral Cecil Haney, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Other American dignitaries came as well including my friend Ambassador Frankie Reed (the current American Ambassador to Suva and former Chargé d’Affaires at Embassy Apia).
We brought with us the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Chafee (with 350 sailors on board), the N.O.A.A. climate research vessel Ka’imimoana, and several Coast Guard and Navy aircraft. We sent the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Band and the acclaimed African American step group Step Afrika! on tours of the islands. And we held several dinners and receptions at our new Chargé Residence including for the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, the large number of fellow Americans from American Samoa who attended the festivities, and government officials.
In terms of substantive business, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and I signed a Shiprider Agreement which will allow the Government of Samoa to place Samoan law enforcement officers on American Coast Guard and Navy ships passing through Samoan waters. The officers will direct the interdiction, arrest, and fining of foreign vessels engaged in illegal commercial fishing, trafficking in persons, and trafficking in prohibited substances, serious problems in parts of the Pacific.