United States President Joe Biden has canceled his meeting with the Federated States of Micronesia President Wesley Simina, who was scheduled to meet next week to discuss the Freely Associated States Compact of Free Association agreements, according to an announcement by The White House.
The COFA agreements were said to be signed on May 22 at a ceremony in Papua New Guinea, according to a report by Reuters.
The article said that both Biden and Simina will be in attendance.
In a comment, shared with the Pacific News Center, prior to the announcement, Republican Guam Delegate James Moylan said it “might be too early to celebrate.”
Moylan stated: “On the surface this is great to hear, but unless the agreement is formally signed, and the agreement is submitted to the House Natural Resources Committee, along with the agreements from the ROP (Republic of Palau) and RMI (Republic of the Marshall Islands) governments, there is nothing much we can state at this time.”
The COFA provisions expire in 2023. Negotiations had started in 2020, but with little progress, now Moylan says they will wait to “see what happens”.
According to Moylan, Congress had been informed at the start of the term that the negotiations with the FSM had been concluded.
These documents, however, were not sent to the House of Representatives.
Under the COFA agreements, the U.S. retains responsibility for the Freely Associated States defense and provides economic assistance while gaining access to their strategic location in the Pacific.
The Compacts allow for COFA citizens to live and work indefinitely in the U.S. and its territories.
As a result, Guam, Hawaii and other jurisdictions in the Pacific that host migrants from the Freely Associated States, for the duration of the agreements, receive millions of dollars in Compact Impact aid.
However, as PNC previously reported, the Biden administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal did not include Compact Impact funding.
As long as the COFA agreements are not officially signed, there isn’t much the U.S. Congress can try to restore Impact funds.
According to Moylan, they can only start on COFA discussions and funding options for host communities like Guam once the agreements are formally signed.
The White House announcement did not mention whether the COFA agreement meeting will be rescheduled.