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Hirono Statement on Progress of COFA Negotiations with Republics of Palau and Marshall Islands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement after the United States, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) as part of ongoing Compact of Free Association (COFA) negotiations:

“The Freely Associated States are important diplomatic, economic, and defense partners, and I’m glad we’ve reached agreements with Palau and the Marshall Islands,” said Senator Hirono. “Renegotiated Compacts will strengthen our relationships with these nations, while helping ensure the U.S. makes good on its obligations to COFA nations and their citizens.

These negotiations were started under the last administration, which did not approach them in good faith and could have derailed the entire process. It’s extremely significant that the Biden Administration was able to successfully revive negotiations and that topline agreements have been reached with Palau and the Marshall Islands, and I applaud Ambassador Yun and his team for their diligent work.

Our obligation to the COFA nations extends to their citizens, which is why I’ve been working for years to reinstate federal benefits for COFA citizens. I was proud to be able to get Medicaid benefits reinstated in 2020 and I’ll continue to pursue every avenue available to restore benefits to all federal programs, including through the different components of the renegotiation.”

The U.S. is currently negotiating to extend its COFA with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. These agreements give the U.S. control over an area of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Hawaii to the Philippines, in exchange for modest economic assistance and access to certain federal programs. The signing of the MOUs confirms each nations’ commitment to building strong, sustainable partnerships between their nations.