The U.S. Presidential Election. Turn a new leaf?

With the 2020 United States Presidential Election a month away, all eyes are on Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

But watching last Tuesday’s chaotic and emotionally charged first Presidential Debate between the incumbent U.S. President and the former Vice President, due to differing opinions on the crisis on multiple fronts now confronting America, it would have been difficult for both the voters and the international community to ascertain the position of the American government on key global initiatives such as climate change and China and its increasing sphere of influence in the Pacific islands.

As a small island developing state – Samoa’s vulnerabilities on the social, economic and environmental fronts is an ongoing challenge – hence the need for the Government to continue to be proactive, in terms of accessing support from bilateral and multilateral partners to address many of our development challenges.

And China has come on board in a big way in the last two decades, offering soft loans and grants to Samoa and other Pacific island nations to fund the building of public infrastructure projects. These include classrooms, hospitals, conference centres, multistorey buildings to host government offices, broadband internet and airport upgrading.

As of June 2019 a statement of borrowings issued by the Samoa Government put our total debt to China at $409,469,958 with principal payments of up to $25 million.

However, it would not make sense putting all our eggs in one basket when it comes to seeking support from our bilateral or multilateral partners. Why should the Government continue to rely on China for cheap loans or grants when it could approach America?

Samoa is a democratic state and changes government every five years through free and fair elections, protects the human rights of all citizens, and enables and promotes the active participation of all our people in politics and civil life.

We acknowledge the shift in America’s foreign policy under the Trump administration to “America First”, whereby the White House disengaged from its various international partnerships such as the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and promoted bilateral agreements over the last three-plus years.

Though, we also note the irony in America questioning China’s expansionary plans in the region, and not offering an alternative solution to the climate crisis that today threatens the future of the world and most Pacific island nations and their people.

And with less than four weeks to the polls in America, we look with optimism at the alternative solution put forward by Mr Biden and the Democrats, to tackle climate change under a US$1.7 trillion climate plan.

In addition to the trillion-dollar climate plan, the former Vice President also assured that if elected he would get the United States to return to the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which Mr Trump withdrew his country from in 2016.

At the end of the day, our people are already feeling and living the effects of climate change, and would want the world’s two largest economies to take more responsibility for their greenhouse gas emissions and move towards establishing a green economy and clean energy systems away from fossil fuel.

The declaration by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in the United Nations General Assembly last month to go carbon-neutral by 2060 augurs well for the world’s long-term future, and should compel the next U.S. President to consider taking similar decisive action to address the long-term effects of climate change.

Concerns that Washington D.C. continues to harbour at the continued expansion of Beijing’s footprint in the Pacific islands, through its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative or development cooperation and technical assistance programmes, should be a wakeup call for America and its leaders to work harder to win the trust of our leaders and governments.

Amid a COVID-19 death toll that has already claimed over 200,000 lives and 7.4 million infections in the U.S., we can only hope for the best for its citizens in their strive to exercise their democratic rights to vote on November 3. 

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