Virtual Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at the Pacific Banking Forum

As Prepared for Delivery 

It is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the Pacific Banking Forum. 

As President Biden has made clear, the United States is committed to an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. A strong and connected Pacific region has benefits for the United States and for the global economy. And when President Biden hosted Prime Minister Albanese at the White House last October, they particularly stressed the importance of increasing economic connectivity, development, and opportunity across the Pacific. A key part of achieving that is making sure people and businesses in the region have access to the global financial system. This event furthers that shared goal. 

Our key focus here is on supporting the Pacific region’s economic resilience, including through strengthening access to correspondent banks. Correspondent banking increases opportunity for everyday people, facilitating the flow of remittances and enabling greater financial inclusion. It can also deliver broader benefits to Pacific Islands countries and to the region as a whole. It promotes healthy market competition in the financial services sector; facilitates trade financed through regional and global financial centers; enables financing for infrastructure and development projects; and helps to make economies and financial systems more resilient to shocks. 

It’s crucial that we have opportunities to discuss these issues and drive progress. Last fall, at the U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Washington, D.C., I appreciated hearing firsthand from Pacific Islands leaders about your economic priorities and challenges, including correspondent bank withdrawals. I left with even more resolve that the Treasury Department should do all it can to help improve the resilience of your banking and financial systems so that they remain integrated with the global economy. 

We have continued to engage with you on this since. This past March, Treasury entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, solidifying our commitment to strengthening Pacific capacity to address correspondent banking needs. We are also closely engaged with the World Bank to explore durable solutions at a regional scale and to support AML/CFT improvements across the Pacific. I see this Forum as another opportunity to move our work forward. 

Convening a forum with such a wide array of stakeholders and global reach is no easy task. I would like to thank our Australian partners for graciously hosting this event in Brisbane and bringing together governing agencies and regulators. I would also like to thank the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Pacific Islands member countries for your strong collaboration and commitment to sharing information and jointly working on solutions. Let me also recognize the banks, other financial institutions, and many other organizations who are joining this week. You play a crucial role in strengthening the financial infrastructure in the region and have crucial perspectives as well. 

Again, a warm welcome to all participants. We are united by a commitment to strengthening correspondent banking across the Pacific and realizing the benefits that will bring. I wish you a productive discussion and very much look forward to hearing the outcomes of this important dialogue.                                      


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