United States-Tonga relations
The U.S.-Tonga partnership is broad and deep, built on shared values and close cooperation on issues ranging from addressing the climate crisis to improving maritime security and promoting cooperation. and development in the region. The Kingdom of Tonga was a protected state of the United Kingdom until 1970. It is the last Polynesian kingdom in the South Pacific, a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The United States commended Tonga for its move towards a fuller democracy with the election in 2010 of its first majority popular parliament and subsequent elections in 2014, 2017 and 2021, which international observers deemed free and fair. , as well as for the continued development of an active and fair political system. a vibrant civil society.
Tonga has made a significant contribution to international peace and security. From 2004 to 2008, Tonga deployed four contingents of troops to Iraq for six months. In 2010, Tonga deployed the first contingent of 55 soldiers to Afghanistan to support the efforts of the British Armed Forces within the International Security Assistance Force. Tonga deployed 330 soldiers to support British forces in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2014. US and Tongan military forces hold annual joint training exercises and the Nevada National Guard has entered into a state partnership program with Tonga in 2014.
Our shared history with Tonga also includes the Tongan American community, which numbers nearly 70,000 people. Tongan Americans have made an impact in many facets of American culture, most notably through American football, where many athletes have left their mark. Some have even been featured in the film “In Football We Trust,” which highlights the Polynesian community in the state of Utah.
American aid to Tonga
More than 1,700 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Tonga since 1967. With an average of 50 Peace Corps volunteers for approximately 100,000 Tongans, Peace Corps Tonga has one of the highest per capita programs in the world. Peace Corp volunteers recently returned to Tonga after the COVID-19 pandemic ended.
The United States is the largest financial contributor to the COVAX mechanism, through which Tonga received approximately 48,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. In January 2022, USAID provided $2.6 million in humanitarian assistance to support people affected by volcanic eruptions and tsunami waves in Tonga. Previously, in May 2020, USAID provided $1 million to Act for Peace to fund protection and disaster risk reduction activities, including coordinating with local organizations to conduct disaster simulation exercises and raise awareness of the inclusion of people with disabilities. Tonga Benefits from USAID COVID-19 Infection, Prevention, and Control Support; risk communication; monitoring; and laboratory support provided through grants to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Tonga also benefits from USAID’s regional programs to respond to disasters and build community resilience to adapt to climate change. The Climate Ready Project (2016-2021) and the Program for Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to Adapt to Climate Change (2015-2021) support opportunities for building resilience and are instrumental in supporting climate change adaptation planning. Tonga has joined the Global Mthane Pledge, and virtual Embassy Science Fellows (ESFs) from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior are helping develop a climate-resilient clean energy infrastructure plan for Tonga. The United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) signed an agreement with Tonga in April to conduct a feasibility study on expanding solar power infrastructure.
The United States is a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Tonga, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities. Tonga receives Foreign Military Funding (FMF) to equip its military and participates in the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which sends Tongan officers and senior military personnel to professional military education and skills development courses. leadership in the United States. The Nevada National Guard has a state partnership program with Tonga, with whom it regularly conducts joint training. The United States also has a sealift agreement with Tonga to provide security and support sealift missions that allow Tongan law enforcement officials to board US Coast Guard vessels. The United States also contributes U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy air assets to Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) regional operations that help combat IUU fishing in the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and support the long-term sustainability of fisheries resources. Additionally, Tonga regularly participates in US Pacific Command-sponsored workshops on topics such as humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, maritime security, peacekeeping, and international humanitarian law.
Bilateral economic relations
Tonga’s economy is characterized by a large non-monetary sector and a heavy reliance on remittances from over half of the country’s population who live overseas, primarily in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. United, especially in Utah, California and Hawaii. . The United States has a trade surplus with Tonga, with two-way merchandise trade of approximately $17 million in 2020. Tonga’s exports are dominated by frozen fish and seafood and cultural crafts for the Tongan diaspora. Tonga is a party to the South Pacific Multilateral Tuna Treaty between the United States and the Pacific Islands, which grants fishing access to American fishing vessels in exchange for a license fee paid by American industry . Under a separate economic assistance agreement associated with the Treaty, the United States government provides $21 million annually to Pacific island parties.
Tonga’s membership in international organizations
Tonga and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Atomic Energy Agency, World Organization Trade, the World Health Organization, the Pacific Community and the Pacific Regional Environment Program Secretariat. Tonga is also a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, of which the United States is a dialogue partner.
The United States held its first-ever United States-Pacific Island Summit in Washington, DC, in September 2022, at which the Kingdom of Tonga was represented, to broaden and deepen cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery and maritime security. , environmental protection and the promotion of a free and open Pacific region. Participants in the U.S.-Pacific Island States Summit released the Declaration on the U.S.-Pacific Partnership, a forward-looking vision reflecting our shared commitment to broaden and deepen our cooperation in the years ahead.
The Embassy has an American Corner in Tonga, which serves as a public platform for local engagement. Recently, the Public Affairs Section has conducted several educational and professional exchange programs in Tonga, including the Fulbright Program and Young Pacific Leaders. The Embassy has also partnered with local organizations on small grants projects aimed at addressing the climate crisis, promoting disaster resilience and inclusive economic prosperity, and promoting the study of science, technology , engineering and mathematics (STEM). Through two separate grants from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) totaling more than $100,000, the United States has helped preserve the 12th Century Royal Tombs.
The United States opened an embassy to the Kingdom of Tonga in Nuku’alofa on May 9, 2023, less than a year after Vice President Harris announced at a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum that states United States would enter into discussions with Tonga regarding their interests. establishing an embassy there.
The establishment of an embassy will pave the way for increased U.S. diplomatic engagement with Tonga, including the potential appointment of a resident ambassador to Tonga.
The main officials of the embassy are listed in the list of main officers of the ministry.
Tonga does not have an Embassy in Washington, DC but does have a Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, who is also accredited as Ambassador to the United States. Tonga maintains a Consulate General in San Francisco, California.
Further information on Tonga is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: