Workers in the South Pacific could benefit from the 20,000 job opportunities which are expected to be generated as a result of the relocation of the United States military base from Okinawa in Japan to Guam.

The Government of Guam, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community have signed a Letter of Understanding (LoU) to work together on how the Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) could benefit through the relocation process.

At the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders meeting in Washington in May 2007, the US Secretary of State informed the Leaders of the potential economic benefits for PICs through the military build-up in Guam. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has since engaged with the US Government and authorities in Guam.

"This Letter of Understanding serves as an understanding on areas where the three parties could work together on to progress the issue to ensure that PICs benefit from the economic opportunities which are available through the military build up in the US territory," says Feleti Teo, Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

"We in the region are excited about the opportunities that the US military build-up on Guam will bring to our people within the region as the Forum Leaders continue to seek opportunities for their people to develop their own livelihoods and their countries' economies," says Mr Teo.

He adds: "The collaboration under the LoU will also look at training for our people making them more competitive. Our people are skilled in their various jobs but in order for the Pacific to compete with labour from other nations like Philippines and China, our workers must have adequate qualifications and skills. It is imperative that we are able to make our islanders marketable for all skilled and unskilled employment opportunities."

Under the LoU, the three parties will continue to have dialogue over issues such as skills training through twining arrangements among training providers in Guam and the Pacific, brokering between labourers and employers and continuing to apply pressure on the US government to consider the Pacific labour pool after Guam and the US Territories before looking else where.

The relocation of the US military base from Okinawa to Guam will involve 8,000 Marines and about 9,000 of their dependents over the next ten years with a total military build-up cost of US$15 billion. Skills required in the relocation are in various sectors including construction, education, health, hospitality and general care giving.