Interview with outgoing US ambassador David Reimer | 05 July 2019
‘We would like to see better economic relations, more American investors and goods here’
The outgoing United States ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles, David Reimer, has described the relationship between the US government and that of Seychelles as good and getting better.
He said the US government would like to grow economic relations with Seychelles and to see more American investors coming to invest in Seychelles and together with more imported goods available here on the market.
Ambassador Reimer was answering questions from the local media during a press conference held at the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa, Glacis on Monday evening.
“I think the last year and a half we’ve really increased the amount of activity we have here in Seychelles and increased our collaboration on a number of areas especially in maritime security apart from other areas as well,” he said, noting that even though without the presence of an embassy here, somebody from the Mauritius embassy is present in Seychelles every week.
Ambassador Reimer though said that it is not impossible to reopen the US embassy in Seychelles but at the moment there are no plans to set up one as it would be very costly.
“The issue unfortunately is that building a new embassy these days with the post 911 and post Benghazi and with all the security requirements, is very expensive. We will have to convince Congress to give us US $150 million or more to build an embassy here. So it’s an issue that we’ve discussed internally but at this point in time we have not yet decided to build an embassy here,” Ambassador Reimer said.
In regards to Port Victoria’s chances of being quickly assessed for the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code thus resulting in striking it off the United States Coast Guard advisory list for anti-terrorism non-compliance, Ambassador Reimer said the training of security officers in port security conducted here recently by the US Navy was an extremely important step forward in that area.
He noted that there is no timeline set for Port Victoria to be struck off the advisory list but both governments are working hard towards getting Port Victoria off the list as quickly as possibly can.
Ambassador Reimer further said that with Seychelles’ port being safe, this contributes to making American ports also safe.
“So, we have a list of tasks that needs to be accomplished and once the government of Seychelles and the port get through that list – and I think they’ve made a lot of progress – we’ll send a team from the US coast guard here to take another look and then revisit the decision,” Ambassador Reimer said.
Asked as to why Seychellois can’t do their visas here rather than travelling abroad to do so, Ambassador Reimer said that at the moment it is impossible for Seychellois to apply for visas here as the US embassy has no facility to do visa interviews in Seychelles.
“For that we would need a large office, a large waiting room, security people and we would need the technology because we take bio-metric materials during the interview process. We just do not have the manpower and the facilities to do that. It is unfortunate that if you’re located in a country without a US embassy, yes you have to go overseas to apply,” Ambassador Reimer said.
Speaking on the US future plans for Seychelles, Ambassador Reimer said that both his country and Seychelles are very happy with the way things have gone for the last couple of years and both are looking to grow the relationship even further.
“I think our top priority is probably maritime security which I think is Seychelles’ top priority too. One area that the United States in particular is interested in is probably growing the economic relationship. We would like to see American investors here and we would also like to see American goods on the shelves here as well. Seychelles does not buy a lot from the United States but we will increase a two way trade between our two countries,” Ambassador Reimer said.
On the signing of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) agreement with the Seychelles government, Ambassador Reimer said the US is not implying that Seychelles is harbouring US tax invaders but it is an agreement the US government is trying to sign with other countries in the world , a procedure which has been largely carried out.
In regards to the position of the US on the construction of a military base on the island of Assomption by the Seychelles government with the assistance of the Indian government, Ambassador Reimer said that the issue is between India and Seychelles, and Assomption is not an issue for the United States.
“It is something for the two governments and the people of Seychelles to decide and we don’t have a position on that,” Ambassador Reimer said, noting that the United States though supports a free, open and an independent Indian Ocean where ships can go freely with no interference, where investors can invest and also with countries in the region democratically supporting freedom and human rights.
He further said he understood that the facility on the island is not to be an Indian military base but rather the Indian government assisting Seychellois to make improvements to the island.
“We have no problem with that if both governments want to do that and that’s fine with us,” he further said.
On the growing influence of both China and India in the region, Ambassador Reimer explained that the United States hopes the region will not lead into a conflict between China, India and the United States. We would like it to be free and open to everybody. Certainly we have concerns with the Chinese influence in the region but we do not view China as an enemy. But what we do want to do is keep the navigation range open, continue to see the development of democracy, free people, the movement of goods – that is our vision,” he said.
“With public pressure mounting on the United Kingdom and also on the US for the return of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, this could mean the potential loss of an important military base in the region,” Ambassador Reimer said.
“We, the United States, were disappointed that Mauritius decided to take this case to the International Court of Justice because we did not feel that the ICJ was the appropriate venue to hear what is essentially a bilateral territorial dispute. Mauritius took it to the ICJ and the ICJ gave a non biding advisory opinion in favour of Mauritius. So we have always said that this is a bilateral issue between the UK and Mauritius and should be settled by those two countries. We do believe that the UK has sovereignty over the island and we do support the UK essentially,” Ambassador Reimer said.
Asked if the US would consider resettlement of the Chagossians if ever Mauritius was given sovereignty over the Islands, Ambassador Reimer said that he doesn’t see the islands going back to Mauritius as the UK has said that no re-settlement is happening in the foreseeable future.
This was Ambassador Reimer’s seventh trip to Seychelles since becoming US ambassador to Seychelles in early 2018. He was in Seychelles to represent the United States of America on Seychelles’ 43rd Independence Day anniversary and also to celebrate the 243rd Independence Day of the United States of America with the people of Seychelles. The USA’s 243rd Independence anniversary was on July 4.
Apart from meeting government officials and attending a reception at State House hosted by President Danny Faure in honour of the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, while in Seychelles Ambassador Reimer also had the opportunity to address security personnel from Seychelles who had followed port security training conducted by US Navy security specialists from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) based in the US as well as sign the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) agreement with the Seychelles government.
The information sharing agreement enables US law enforcement to obtain information on US individuals or US corporations with bank accounts in Seychelles with the purpose of preventing them to avoid paying taxes.