Here is President Louis Mapou’s full speech at the US-Pacific Island Countries Summit on Thursday 29 September 2022. He is addressing Joe Biden.
Mr. President, your invitation has caused a stir in our country and has come as a surprise. No one expected it. I would like to tell you that it is an honour and a privilege for me, my government, my people and my country.
We are used to a traditional relationship with Europe and with France, and it is an honour and a privilege that you are doing to me, to the government, to the people of New Caledonia, and to our country.
It is also the mark of an interest in a country that is opening a new page in its history since we are engaged, with the French State, in a process that has been called, explicitly, a process of decolonisation.
And today we are in the process of seeking ways and means of finding the best solutions for our people in the future.
In this commitment that we made in 1988 and 1998, the integration of New Caledonia into its original region, which is the Pacific, is one of the main priorities of my government and successive governments of New Caledonia.
Our contemporary history has been linked many times to that of the United States. Indeed, the American army – during the Second World War – made New Caledonia its main rear base, as it served as a training camp and health centre for many GIs. More than 1,200,000 million of these soldiers passed through our country between 1942 and 1945.
New Caledonia actively participated in the war effort by exporting its nickel. We are among the largest producers of nickel in the world (stainless steel manufacturing), necessary for the war effort.
Today we are one of the largest producers of the metal, with a large American company that we had the pleasure of seeing this morning, the Tesla Company, becoming one of the key trading partners in the process of making green nickel, as required by international standards today.
Mr. President, your presence in our country over these three years has completely transformed our country. It has opened up a hope for freedom, and I draw a parallel with this invitation you have extended to us, which opens up new prospects for our small country.
It is in this spirit that we will make our humble contribution to the construction of a prosperous and stable Pacific region.
The five working sessions held during this first summit provide an opportunity to define a new partnership cooperation between the United States and the Pacific countries. For my country, they offer a glimpse of a field of possibilities, a field of possible partnerships beyond the one we have with France.
I was very surprised to note, during our meeting yesterday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, your country’s commitment to the Blue Pacific 2050 strategy that links us within the Pacific Islands Forum. This strategy has set out our commitment to developing the conditions for resilience in Pacific countries to the challenges of climate change,
Mr. Chairman, this joint statement, which we endorse, will consolidate the roadmap we adopted at the 51st Pacific Islands Forum in Suva in 2022.
This roadmap provides the foundation for moving the South Pacific forward in a way that serves the people of the Pacific.