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Trilateral leaders summit draws calls for territorial visa reform

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Federal Government, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands | 0 comments

On April 11, President Joe Biden (D) will meet Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr, president of the Philippines, in a trilateral leaders summit. Their talks will center on a joint response to Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific but the three will also discuss bolstering economic ties. However, the US territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are not expected to come up in the negotiations.

The exclusion is stark. The two territories are located squarely in the Indo-Pacific and have historically played a significant role in the American militaries’ forward posture in that area. Just last year, the United States announced the construction of a new base in Guam to support operations in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Economically, the territories have made sacrifices in order to cope with the growing iciness between the United States and China. Northern Mariana Islands Governor Arnold Palacios (I) recently undertook a policy package designed to reduce reliance on Chinese tourism to the CNMI economy, a decision which single-handedly wrought short-term economic turmoil on the commonwealth. Palacios has sought to replace the loss with tourism from the Philippines and Japan, but his efforts have largely floundered so far.

In the context of these economic challenges, territorial advocates want their voices to be heard in the negotiations. In an open letter to President Biden, Guam Governor Leon Guererro (D) requested the territories be added to the trilateral agenda. Specifically, she asked for the expansion of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands’ visa-free travel program, which is currently limited in scope, to include the Philippines. Reducing the barriers to tourism, she hoped, would resuscitate the territorial economies that have struggled in the wake of COVID and the decline of Chinese visitors. She was joined by Northern Mariana Islands territorial representative Edwin Propst (D).

President Biden has not responded to the territories’ request, and it is unclear whether the territories will make it into the trilateral discussions. But policies to expand tourism may prove necessary for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, both of whom have sacrificed to support American geopolitical priorities.



Kabir Buch

Kabir Buch

Kabir Buch is a senior at the Harker School in California. He’s passionate about constitutional law and political science, and worked on a lawsuit protecting free speech rights on social media (Cool World v. Twitter). He's deeply interested in global affairs and is a captain of his school's debate team. In his free time, he loves hiking, strolling through his neighborhood, and reading fantasy novels. At Pasquines, he's the Northern Mariana Islands Affairs Intern Editor.


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