GOP adopts strong territories plank in platform

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and other GOP nominees up and down the ballot will campaign on a platform that includes all five U.S. territories.

“The GOP platform is clear in calling for increased economic opportunities and renewed prosperity in the Virgin Islands and the other U.S. territories,” said territorial Republican Party chairman John Canegata. “While Democrats believe in guaranteed outcomes, we Republicans believe in creating equal opportunities for all Americans.”

April Newland, of St. Thomas, represented the Virgin Islands on the Republican National Convention Platform Committee.

The platform’s position on American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands reads as follows:

Throughout the history of our nation, the patriotism exhibited by our brothers and sisters in the territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico has often gone unacknowledged.

Year after year, the citizens quietly, without fanfare, send their sons and daughters into the U.S. armed services. We honor the extraordinary sacrifices of the men and women of the territories who protect our freedom through their service in the U.S. armed forces. Geographically, the territories and commonwealths, especially those in the Pacific, are of vital importance to our national security as the outermost line of defense and gateway to America against potential encroachment by foreign powers. We welcome their greater participation in all aspects of the political process and affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

We recognize the challenges facing all the U.S. territories in an era of dramatic global economic change. They need venture capital to retain existing industries and develop new ones. A stronger private sector can reduce dependence on public employment and lead toward self-sufficiency. Their development of local energy options will be crucial to reduce dependence on costly imported fuel.

The territories’ economic stability and potential for growth must be considered in any trade agreements between the United States and other Pacific nations. They should be given flexibility or exemption from laws that increase costs for their populations, such as the minimum wage and the Jones Act concerning shipping. All unreasonable impediments to their prosperity should be removed, including unreasonable U.S. customs practices.

We call for the appointment of a commonwealth and territories advisory committee consisting of representatives from all five U.S. territories. The committee will be integrated into the president’s transition team and be tasked with performing a holistic review of all federal regulations affecting the territories and commonwealths. We further call for the appointment of a special assistant to the president responsible for day-to-day interaction with the territories and commonwealths. This position will be the direct connection for the Office of Insular Affairs, the citizens of the territories and commonwealths, and the White House.

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