Saturday, 05 May 2007
US wants NZ to join Guam boom
The United States Government is urging New Zealand businesses to take advantage of a planned economic boom on the Pacific island of Guam.
David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, said the US is to spend US$14 billion (NZ$19 billion) investing in Guam as it moves marines from the Japanese island of Okinawa to a new base.
Mr Cohen is responsible for the US' relationship with its territories in the Pacific, such as Guam and American Samoa, as well as economic assistance to nations in association with the US, such as the Marshall Islands.
He said that, by 2010, the population of Guam would increase by 25 per cent to about 205,000 because of the massive increase in troop numbers.
Besides the construction of the base, there would also be a big development of associated infrastructure to cope with the influx of marines.
Mr Cohen said many New Zealand businesses, including Fletcher Building, had wide experience in the South Pacific, and the US was keen for assistance.
New Zealand business people would also find it easy to travel in the region because of the business waiver agreement with the US.
He called on New Zealand businesses to attend the Island Business Opportunities conference to be held in Guam in October.
The conference would detail opportunities in infrastructure investment and incentives to do business in the island nations with which the US has a strong relationship.
Mr Cohen's office is responsible for a budget of US$425 million, which is mostly spent on aid and other assistance to the US' Pacific territories.
The US recently signed a new compact with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia which allocates US$3.5 billion of assistance to them over 20 years.
Another new compact with Palau is also being negotiated.
Mr Cohen said the US experience with the Micronesian nations had many similarities to New Zealand's relationship with the South Pacific.
Residents of the US territories in the Pacific have rights of citizenship, while the nations in free association have rights of residency.
Mr Cohen said the historical relationship was a double-edged sword that acted as a "safety valve" for those needing employment, but also created a brain-drain effect.
He is in New Zealand for the Pacific Futures conference, being held in Auckland today.
The conference is looking at business opportunities for New Zealanders in the Pacific.
Other speakers include Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.