Samoa and the Pacific region matter to the United Kingdom.
That’s the assurance from the new British High Commissioner, Laura Clarke, who is in Samoa for her first visit.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Ms. Clarke said while the U.K. is in the final negotiation stages of leaving the European Union, she sees an opportunity to strengthen relations and cooperation with the Pacific.
“The U.K. has always been a global, outwardly looking trading nation and that will be ever more important in terms of development assistance we already give a lot through the multilateral organisations,” she said.
“There is obviously works to look at; what happens to our contributions through the E.U. after we leave Brexit and that’s a work in progress, but my overriding view is that there are benefits and opportunities for countries like Samoa, New Zealand coming from Brexit."
“There is also an opportunity in Brexit for us to strengthen our relationships further with countries in the Pacific and there will be no turning in of the U.K. following Brexit."
“As for Brexit itself, if you watch the news, we’ve got a lot of work to do and there’s a lot that we need to negotiate and resolve, but I am very confident that we have the competence and commitment on both sides to really make it work.”
Fielding questions about whether the British Government would increase the amount of postgrad scholarships available to Samoan scholars, Ms. Clarke reassured that she will do her best to advocate for more opportunities.
“We will look at it and we are always advocating for more in London because I think it’s the most amazing opportunity, but also it’s a great link between our countries and I will certainly go back to London and advocate. Sadly like any Government, we have limited budgets but what we do like to do our best.”
With regards to shared goals on climate change, Ms. Clarke said her government remains active in driving forward the Paris Climate Change agenda and looks to support and work more closely with Pacific Island States in tackling climate change emissions.
“I think the Commonwealth is a good platform for highlighting the issue and what we want to do is work very closely with the Pacific Island States as your P.M. said in his speech in Wellington a few weeks ago, he quoted the Prime Minister of Tuvalu ,‘If you save Tuvalu, you save the world’.
“Because the Pacific is really on the front line, I think there is some really important things we can do both in terms of supporting transition to low energy and green growth."
“It’s both about tackling climate change emission; it’s about managing the impacts. And it’s also about working together in advocacy on the world stage so we keep winning the argument and winning afresh that this is something that is urgent and needs to be tackled with a matter of urgency.”
Ms. Clarke spoke about her meeting Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, particularly about Samoa’s leadership on the world stage on climate change and looks forward to seeing him at the Commonwealth summit.
“Samoa has a key role to play also because of its current sharing of the Pacific Island Forum, so really Samoa is coordinating the island states in the Pacific. We talked about the climate change agenda cooperation between our countries more broadly and in addition to the officials calls I made.”
During her brief visit, the British High Commissioner also met representatives from the community and had a chance to visit Robert Louis Stevenson museum where she shared that she discovered a self-portrait of the late poet that her great great grandfather had painted.
Ms Clarke, who is based in Wellington, took up her role in January of this year, replacing Jonathan Sinclair.
She is also the British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Governor of the Pitcairn Islands.
High on the agenda was the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
Ms. Clarke also said the next time she comes; she hopes to bring her family to spend a few days seeing the sights of Samoa.