Micronesia hires lobbyists as it seeks to protect US relationship

The Federated States of Micronesia, small island nation in the western Pacific Ocean, has hired Washington lobbyists to ensure a key agreement with the United States remains in place.

Law and lobby firm Arnold & Porter submitted the contract, which covers “international and economic issues,” to the Justice Department on Thursday night.

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Among those is an international agreement known as the Compact of Free Association that the United States has with four Pacific Island countries — Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

It allows citizens of those countries to travel and work in the United States without special visa approvals, in addition to being able to serve in the U.S. military. 

Through the agreement, Micronesia also receives financial assistance from the United States in exchange for being able to set military bases on the island. It serves as a strategic outpost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a region where China often flexes its power.

“The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has long enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the United States,” Kevin O’Neill, the co-chair of Arnold & Porter’s legislative and public policy group, told The Hill in an email. “We are looking forward to helping the FSM build on this very positive relationship in the years to come, and to helping the FSM in other ways, such as providing it advice on U.S. law and helping it in its work with international non-profit organizations.”

The two-year contract is worth $35,000 per month. O’Neill is joined on the account by former State Department official Sam Witten, Bridget Weiss, and Declan Tansey.

While the compact does not expire until 2023, renegotiations have occurred constantly through the agreement’s history.

During the last renewal of the compact, in 2003, it was decided to begin to transfer a portion of the aid into a jointly managed trust fund in an attempt to make Micronesia more self-sufficient post-2023.

Last November, three members of the FSM Congress introduced a resolution to cut ties with the United States and end the compact in 2018, but it never got off the ground.

Micronesia is the first foreign client signed by the firm since O’Neill came over from Squire Patton Boggs to expand Arnold & Porter’s lobbying business. 

The firm has had a slate of foreign clients throughout the years, but Israel is the only other international country it currently represents.