Gov. Ralph DLG Torres underscored his administration’s stance of putting out the welcome mat for all investors in the CNMI in reaction to an American report on the possible implications of China’s presence on U.S. interests in the Pacific.
Reacting to a report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, or USCESRC, Torres stated that he welcomes investors from all over the world—not just China—to invest in the CNMI.
He said this welcome is extended to all investors without favoring specific countries.
“They decided to come here and make their investments here. We welcome every country. We are not specifically saying that…we want Chinese money [here]. It’s a free market. You come in and we treat you just like everybody else,” he said in an unplanned news briefing yesterday.
The USCESRC report noted that U.S. military interests may be affected by the influence of China in the Pacific region. Specifically, the report stated that China’s presence may “erode U.S. influence” in the Compact countries of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, which could have implications for “U.S. military access in the region.”
The report cited a statement by Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who believes that if China were to establish a long-term political foothold in the region, it could “persuade [the Compact countries] not to extend access to the U.S. as well as arrange for Chinese access.”
The report noted that Compact countries allow assured access to their islands in a contingency situation in exchange for U.S. defense commitments.
Press secretary Kevin Bautista pointed out that the CNMI has been actively involved in discussions on establishing a “stronger relationship” with the U.S. Department of Defense in the last three years alone.
“We take the U.S. national security concerns very seriously,” he said.
Bautista highlighted several meetings between Torres and the Pentagon, the Pacific Command in Hawaii, and the Joint Region Marianas in Guam, among several others.
“At the end of the day, the administration has worked diligently to develop a strong economy that is built upon even stronger foundations that can grow an economy that is stable and beneficial for the CNMI,” he said.
Bautista noted that the CNMI has always been plagued with geographical and political barriers, which in turn lowers the economic viability of the NMI.
“Who is going to come to the CNMI 8,000 miles away [from the U.S. mainland], when there is a market for them [there] and no incentive for them to invest here in the Marianas, even though the governor and his administration has made every possible effort to attract American investments first,” he said.
“We are getting literally crumbs from the global market table,” said Bautista, adding that even with all the industries that were allowed to develop, the CNMI still does not have enough resources to be self-sufficient in a “typical economic setting.”
“During the heights of the CNMI economy, policies were based on supporting economic growth which saw successes but still lacked a lot of the foundational structure that is needed for a more developed economy,” he added.
According to Bautista, the administration has been focusing on policies that create high-paying jobs through investments and infrastructure planning in order to boost the quality of living in the CNMI.