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


NEWS RELEASE January 25, 2002


Congressman Faleomavaega is pleased to announce that he met with the Honorable Heinz Moeller, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ecuador, to discuss the issue of the Andean Trade Preference Expansion Act (ATPEA).

The meeting was held in Congressman Faleomavaega’s Washington office on Tuesday, January 22, 2002.

Accompanying Minister Moeller was the Ambassador of Ecuador, the Honorable Ivonne Abaki, Minister Carlos Jativa, Deputy Chief of Mission, Counselor Teodoro Maldonado and Second Secretary Juan Manuel Escalante for Economic Affairs.

"The Ecuadorian Delegation shared its concerns about the on-going drug problem in Latin America and made a compelling argument that expanded trade benefits would assist the Andean countries in curbing drug production," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "However, Minister Moeller also understands that the people of American Samoa do not grow drug crops. We do not export drug crops. Our economy, whether up or down, is in no way associated with drug production.

"We do not need and have not asked for preferential treatment to rid ourselves of illegal trade. Instead, we have built our economy on the principles of fair trade," the Congressman said. "More than 100 years ago, we established relations with the United States and freely pledged our allegiance to uphold the principles of democracy. More than 40 years ago, we welcomed the tuna fishing and processing industry to our remote islands. We worked, we toiled, we built. Today, our economy is more than 80% dependent on the U.S. tuna industry.

"Although I support Ecuador’s efforts to curb drug-production," the Congressman continued, "I firmly believe that the issue of preferential trade for canned tuna should be debated on its own merits. I do not believe a discussion about tuna should be couched in the rhetoric of an anti-drug campaign. However, if we want to talk about drugs, I want to be clear.

"I do not believe American Samoa should be penalized for practicing the principles of fair trade. I do not believe American Samoa should be placed at a trade disadvantage because it has no past or present affiliation with drug production. The fact of the matter is whether or not canned tuna from Ecuador is given preferential trade treatment has little to do with whether or not drug production in Latin America will be curbed," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"Beyond this, Ecuador is not lacking for products or commodities to export," the Congressman continued. "In fact, Ecuador has substantial oil resources and a GDP purchasing power parity of $37 billion. Ecuador exports $5.6 billion in products and commodities, including petroleum, bananas, shrimp, and coffee. According to some analysts, two-way trade between the United States and the Andean region has more than doubled to $28.5 billion a year since enactment of the Andean trade agreement in 1992. With this kind of growth, are we really supposed to believe that Ecuador has to corner the tuna market in order to fight the drug war?"

"I believe it is important for the people of American Samoa to know that Ecuador is rapidly becoming the 3rd largest supplier of albacore to the U.S.," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "If Ecuador is allowed duty-free caps of 2 to 3 million cases as currently proposed, Ecuador will become the 2nd largest exporter of light meat tuna to the U.S. No matter what others may report, this is of international concern.

"This is an international trade matter that is being reported across international news wires," Faleomavaega continued. "As the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific, I can assure you that American Samoa is at the heart and center of this debate. Our efforts to create a level playing field are being followed by Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Mexico. Each of these nations understands that preferential trade treatment for the Andean countries will affect the global tuna industry.

"It is important for American Samoa to also understand that the ATPEA will affect our local economy," the Congressman said. "As has been repeatedly stated, the only market for tuna from American Samoa is the U.S. Therefore, duty-free treatment for canned tuna from Ecuador equals financial problems for American Samoa.

"In a show of good-faith, I am continuing my efforts to work out a fair and reasonable compromise. I want to be helpful to Ecuador. I want to be helpful to our canneries and U.S. tuna boat owners. I also want to ensure that the interests of American Samoa are protected. With this understanding, Minister Moeller and I have agreed to continue discussions and find points of compromise that will be of benefit to both Ecuador and American Samoa.

"Our discussions will tentatively resume during the first week of February," Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.

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