Lay of the Land: Vanuatu is south of the Solomon Islands and east of Australia. It consists of several large volcanic islands with rugged and heavily forested mountains in the interior and narrow plains around the coast.
During World War II, the United States established a huge base on Espiritu Santo and another at Port-Vila. The massive amounts of supplies and equipment brought in encouraged the people’s cargo cult beliefs, which had developed in the era of the traders. (In an unusually wasteful move, a military officer, as the base was being closed and the soldiers sent home, ordered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of heavy equipment thrown into the sea.) Practitioners of cargo cults believe that if they say the right prayers and practice the right rituals, some day planes and ships will come, bringing goods just for them. Wartime Vanuatu was the main setting for James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific.
In 2007 the United States imported $885,000 worth of goods from Vanuatu, about half being tobacco, waxes, and non-food oils. This was down from $2,259,000 in 2006, a drop mostly in artwork and re-imports. The United States in 2007 exported goods worth $23,948,000, mostly in vessels and measuring, testing, and control instruments. The U.S. foreign aid request for Vanuatu for 2008 was only $115,000 to help train police to enforce maritime laws. However, this does not include the large Peace Corps presence in Vanuatu. Also, in 2006 the United States and Vanuatu singed an agreement which will provide Vanuatu $65.7 million dollars as part of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation. This five-year agreement is to help improve transportation, trade, and tourism.
Robert W. Fitts 9/11/03-10/2/06 (also accredited to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea)
Vanuatu does not have an embassy in the United States. It does have a permanent mission to the United Nations.
Teddy B. Taylor, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service holding the rank of Minister Counselor, was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu on September 21, 2009. In a move sure to win hearts and minds in Papua New Guinea, Taylor and his wife, fellow Foreign Service officer Antoinette Corbin-Taylor, have partnered with her college sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, in a project to develop mobile library services in and for Papua New Guinea. Born circa 1953 in Washington, DC, Taylor graduated High School in the D.C. public schools, earned his B.A. in Political Science at Florida A&M University in 1975, and is a brother in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.