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

News Release October 28, 2002


Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that Mr. Don Binotto, President of StarKist Seafoods, has requested a meeting to discuss the future of StarKist in American Samoa and IRS Section 936. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for the first week of December.

"I am pleased that the President of StarKist wants to work together to insure the future of tuna processing in American Samoa," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "I am also pleased that Mr. Binotto is committed to working together on IRS Section 936. IRS Section 936 provides federal tax benefits to companies that do business in American Samoa and other U.S. possessions. Put another way, Section 936 helps our canneries remain profitable and competitive. Under current law, IRS Section 936 is scheduled to expire in 2005."

"In July of 2001, I sponsored legislation which would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and provide our canneries with permanent tax benefits. However, last year both canneries set aside the issue of IRS Section 936 and instead took up the hard-fought matter of Andean Trade. With more than 1,000 workers at Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing at risk of losing their jobs, American Samoa also had to put first things first. First, we had to save our canned tuna industry from an onslaught of foreign competition. With your support and prayers, we were successful and I am now pleased that both StarKist and Chicken of the Sea are now committed to working on IRS Section 936," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"I am also pleased that the President of StarKist Seafoods has given his personal assurances that StarKist wishes to remain in American Samoa. As has bee repeatedly stated, our economy is more than 85% dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries. A decrease in production or departure of one or both of the existing canneries in American Samoa could devastate our local economy resulting in massive unemployment and insurmountable financial problems."

"Given the adverse affects any change in production could have on American Samoa’s economy, I continue to be deeply concerned about foreign competition," Congressman Faleomavaega said. "Foreign countries, with cheaper labor costs, are trying to cut us out and take away our share of the U.S. tuna market. Thanks to both Democratic and Republican support in both the House and Senate we were able to protect American Samoa’s canned tuna industry from the Andean countries. However, tuna processors in Ecuador are now soliciting a million signatures in an effort to pressure President Bush and the U.S. Congress to grant Ecuador the same trade privileges as the U.S. Territory of American Samoa."

"The Central American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are also seeking duty-free treatment for canned tuna under the provisions of the U.S. Central America Free Trade Agreement," the Congressman continued. "If this is not enough, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are also pushing the United States to remove or lower tariff rates, and as I said last week, foreign competition spells trouble for American Samoa."

"As StarKist clearly pointed out during last year’s minimum wage hearings, the only market for tuna from American Samoa is the United States. Why is this so? This is because foreign countries will not let us send our canned tuna into their countries without paying high duties. Yet, foreign countries want us to lower our duties so that they can compete in our market. This is not fair, it is not right, and I will continue to do everything I can to protect American Samoa’s interests," Congressman Faleomavaega said.

"With the U.S. Secretary of State publicly stating that he is spending his days with tuna quotas, I can only repeat that the issue of canned tuna is a serious trade matter and I will do everything I can to protect American Samoa’s interests. Despite whatever differences we may have had during the Andean Trade debate, I am pleased that the President of StarKist has also offered his assurances that he wants to work together to insure the future of tuna processing in American Samoa. I am looking forward to working with Mr. Binotto and I thank him for requesting a meeting to discuss IRS Section 936, minimum wage rates, and other issues that are important to American Samoa’s future," the Congressman concluded.

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