From GVSU student to World Leader: a conversation with Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau
Date and Time
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Kirkhof Center » RM 2204 PERE MARQUETTE
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About President Tommy Remengesau
As captain of the small ship of a nation, the Republic of Palau, Grand Valley State alumnus Tommy Remengesau has to make the best use of his tough geopolitical situation. His strategic and tactical decisions are particularly important, as his Pacific island nation operates in the center of all the major potential conflicts brewing across the globe: US-China competition and cooperation, terrorism, food and resource issues, and perhaps most acutely: the dangers of climate change.
American readers got a tremendous introduction to some of the leadership challenges President Remengesau faces in the deep dive into the dangerous world of poaching and the ocean’s fisheries in: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/magazine/palau-vs-the-poachers.html
Remengesau’s efforts have won him worldwide recognition, most recently in the form of the 2016 Peter Benchley Ocean Award [http://peterbenchleyoceanawards.org/press]
Within the expanding sphere of China’s influence, Palau serves as a fascinating example of how small nations can be key players in U.S./China competition. Though Palau maintains diplomatic relations with the R.O.C. (Taiwan), Chinese tourists pump more revenue into Palau’s most important economic sector than all other source nations combined. Key counter-balances in East Asian politics, Japan and Taiwan, provide a great deal of the foreign development aid to Palau.
Palau, along with other Defense Compact nations, came into focus with the new Trump administration’s plan to close that visa-waiver “back door” route of potential terrorists to the USA. Palauan citizens, under that defense compact, have the right of “free association” in the United States, and also serves as a key player in national defense. In fact, Palauan citizens serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than do U.S. citizens! Unknown to many Americans, Palau took 17 Guantanamo detainees off our hands in 2009 (mostly, Chinese Uighers) in exchange for $200 million in US development aid:
Finally, on climate change, Palau is threatened from below and above. Rising sea levels due to melting polar ice caps, has put the very existence of this nation in peril. His leadership on the issue of climate change earned President Remengesau a prominent role at the 2015 Paris Accords. The el-Niño-fueled drought of 2015-2017 caused Palau to ask for emergency assistance from its Asia allies, Japan and Taiwan, while China provided water assistance to the equally desperate Federated States of Micronesia—which has previously switched its recognition from Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China.
Additional reading on the global leadership of President Remengesau:
Op-Ed piece in the Guardian (UK national daily newspaper).
Palau one of CNN’s top destinations
GVSU Padnos International Center