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CONGRESSMAN ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA American Samoa U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

NEWS RELEASE August 27, 2001


Congressman Eni Faleomavaega announced today that the CEO of Chicken of the Sea and the President of Bumble Bee have requested a meeting with him to discuss S.525, a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate which would allow for the extension of NAFTA rates of duty for processed tuna imports from Andean countries, including Ecuador.

"If passed in its current form, tariffs on tuna imports from Andean countries would decline to zero in 2008," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "In other words, by 2008, tuna processed in Ecuador would be given the same duty-free access to U.S. markets as tuna processed in American Samoa."

"Both Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee oppose this legislation. StarKist supports the measure. I am deeply troubled that StarKist is the only U.S. processor of tuna that supports preferential treatment for Ecuador," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"This legislation holds serious implications for American Samoa and the tuna industry at large. Ecuador has a wage rate of $.69 per hour. Ecuador also has the capacity to produce enough canned tuna to flood the American market. If passed, this legislation would have a devastating effect on our local economy and would threaten the very existence of the U.S. tuna industry," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"The CEO of Chicken of the Sea has already noted that if this legislation passes, its operations in American Samoa would be forced to downsize by 50%. Chicken of the Sea wants to maintain its operations in American Samoa," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "This is why Chicken of the Sea has requested my support in opposing this legislation."

"StarKist, on the other hand, wants to expand in Ecuador," the Congressman continued. "In his testimony before the Senate, K. Ward Rogers, retired General Manager of Technical Services for StarKist Seafood, testified that its facility in American Samoa is at full capacity with no ability to expand due to space constraints. Mr. Rogers also argued that with Ecuador offering excellent packing capacity and access to a high quality local fishery, Ecuador is a natural choice for expansion."

"I am disappointed in Mr. Rogers’ assessment of American Samoa," Faleomavaega said. "American Samoa, after all, has had more than a forty year relationship with StarKist. StarKist knows that expansion is absolutely possible in American Samoa. It has been so for more than forty years. It continues to be possible today."

"As I stated earlier, I am disappointed that StarKist is the only U.S. processor of tuna that supports preferential treatment for Ecuador. The fact of the matter is Bumble Bee has close to $25 million invested in Ecuador and does not support the inclusion of tuna in the Andean Trade Act," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"StarKist has no, or very minimal, investment in Ecuador yet wants Ecuador to have all the privileges and benefits of American Samoa. We must ask ourselves why.

"In March, during the tuna tax hearings, I testified before the Fono and, in June, I testified at the minimum wage hearings held in the Territory. In both instances, I made reference to the Andean Trade Act and its potential effect on the economy of our Territory," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"Again, I have brought these matters to the attention of the Governor and the Fono. Simply put, the nature of the tuna industry is changing globally and American Samoa cannot rely indefinitely on the industry to provide economic stability and security in the Territory."

"I am continuing my work with other senior members of the House and Senate, both Republican and Democrat, to see that the interests of American Samoa are protected," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"However, I think it is important to note that if we are successful in exempting tuna from the Andean Trade Act at this time, it will only be a matter of years before similar legislation is introduced again."

"This is why I believe it is in our best interest to prepare for the future," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"At the same time, we must consider new ways of making our existing partnerships more meaningful and equitable for as long as the tuna industry chooses to do business in American Samoa."

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