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Amata leads oversight hearing on Compact of Free Association amendments

Amata with Republic of Palau President Surangel Whipps
Source: Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata’s D.C. staff

Washington, D.C. — Uifa’atali Amata on Tuesday chaired the House Committee on Natural Resources Indo-Pacific Task Force oversight hearing on the Biden Administration's proposed Compact of Free Association (COFA) amendments.

Task Force Chairman Amata Radewagen (R-American Samoa) and Co-chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI) released the following statements:

"The Compact with our free association partners is a national security and foreign policy success story. The Chinese Communist Party dictatorship has pursued a model in which they challenge U.S. leadership by attempting to leverage the FAS through systematic political warfare, economic disruption, corruption, and coercion," said Chairman Amata. "We have a duty to protect the interests of Americans and island peoples alike by reauthorizing these Compact agreements. While there is much work that remains to be done before the Administration’s proposal is ready, I stand prepared to work with our partners at this time of great importance in the Pacific."

"The United States has close and long-standing relationships with the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands," Co-Chairman Sablan said. "But it would be a mistake to take these relationships for granted, especially at a time when China seeks to dominate the Western Pacific. Congress and the Freely Associated States must work together to finalize 20-year extensions of our Compact agreements and send them to the President for his signature without delay."

Testifying were the Honorable Joseph Y. Yun, Special Presidential Envoy for Compact Negotiations; Mr. Keone Nakoa, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior; Dr. Siddharth Mohandas, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, U.S. Department of Defense.

Also testifying, His Excellency Surangel S. Whipps, Jr., President, Republic of Palau; The Hon. Kenneth Kedi, Speaker, The Parliament of the Republic of the Marshall Islands; Mr. Leo A. Falcam, Jr., Chief Compact Negotiator, Federated States of Micronesia.

The U.S. has international agreements known as Compacts of Free Association with three Pacific Island countries: the Republic of Palau (Palau), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), referred to collectively as the Freely Associated States (FAS). The COFA for the RMI and the FSM expire at the end of (FY) 2023 and the end of FY24 for Palau.

In order to deter the People’s Republic of China's (PRC) influence and to maintain the United States’ capacity to secure its interests, the U.S. must remain engaged with the FAS, and the Indo-Pacific region as a whole, and respond to malign PRC coercive activity. The COFA are critical to U.S. relationships with the FAS and for U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific.

Tuesday's hearing was an opportunity for the bipartisan task force to hear from representatives from the Departments of State, the Interior and Defense, as well as representatives of FAS Governments, and begin deliberation on the Biden administration's proposed Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2023.