US Treaty has 'matured and endured'- Ambassador Cefkin at historic signing in Fiji
Saturday 3 Dec 2016-- Pacific ministers, heads of fisheries and delegations from both sides were part of a historic signing event today at the Novotel in Nadi, Fiji Islands as the US and Pacific multilateral fisheries renegotiated treaty began rounding up signatures. Most member nations have signed, with more to come as more heads of delegation arrive in the build up to WCPFC13, which opens Monday 5 December.
Meanwhile, the speeches and formalities from FFA as Administrator, through to the opening prayer and closing remarks from Tonga's Fisheries Minister Semisi Fakahou, commended the hard work led by Pacific nations working through many difficult layers of the now-concluded renegotiation, which was accepted in principle a few months ago. Comments celebrating the values of cooperation and regionalism which helped to bring about a successful conclusion to the negotiations, were mirrored by those of US Ambassador to Fiji Judith Beth Cefkin (see full statement below).
Remarks for Tuna Treaty signing ceremony by Ambassador Judith Beth Cefkin on December 3, 2016 at Novotel, Nadi FIJI ISLANDS
It's an honour to be with all you today here in beautiful Fiji, as we conclude amendments on the Multilateral treaty on Fisheries, also known as the US Treaty.
I know that many people in this room-- and many who could not make the trip, have worked very hard, for many years, to make this agreement possible.
That includes first and foremost the FFA staff, all of the many devoted officials from the Pacific Islands parties, my US government colleagues from state department and NOAA, and our industry stakeholders.
Bill Gibbons-Fly extends his warmest regards, and it hardly feels right to be here without him, since he has played such a key role in these negotiations over so many years. I also want to recognise that many key players in this treaty are no longer with us, including the Hon. Minister Elisala Pita of Tuvalu.
I know he was a strong supporter of this relationship, and I hear that the meeting in Auckland, where we reached agreement in principle, was closed, at around 3am, with his warm words. We are thinking of him and others who have passed at this time as well.
We should all acknowledge that this has almost certainly been the most difficult year in the long history of the Treaty, and that followed many years of already difficult renegotiations. We had to overcome changing expectations, grievances around plans gone wrong, and uncertainty about the future existence of the Treaty to make this day possible. The fact that we call strove to make success happen, rather than simply concede defeat, is a testament to our strong ties and ability to highlight shared interests. I also know that a lot of creativity went into devising a whole new fishing access model in such a short period of time.
We think this agreement helps build a more solid and sustainable basis for long-term cooperation under the Treaty. It establishes more flexible arrangements that should serve the interests of both sides. It strikes a balance between increasing the economic returns from fisheries for Pacific Island parties, while establishing greater certainty to support the continued viable operation of the US purse seine fleet.
And it will highlight the importance of 21m in related US government economic assistance to the region each year, while also working together to improve the flow of information about how that money supports sustainable development. These are great achievements.
Secretary Kerry signed the note to rescind the US withdrawal from the Treaty, and authorized us to sign these amendments, in response to the excellent work you all have done to put the Treaty on a more solid footing. He asked that I thank you for all the efforts that have gone into these negotiations, particularly over the past year.
Based on my time as Ambassador-- including in my travels to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu--I have seen how important fisheries are to the Pacific Island region: your economies, cultures, livelihoods, histories.
I know the United States -- including both the government and the US-flagged fishing fleet, which is also represented here today-- are among your oldest partners in the regional effort to sustainably manage this resource and contribute to managing it in a sustainable way.
While there have been ups and downs in that partnership, is has matured and endured, and our broader political and economic ties are stronger for it.
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this special occasion, where together we take another important step forward in our nearly 30-year old relationship under this Treaty.--ENDS