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HONOLULU, Hawaii (Pacific Islands Report, June 24) – American
Samoa Congressman Eni Faleomavaega says the White House is supporting his
efforts to revise pending Compacts of Free Association with the Marshall Islands
and the Federated States of Micronesia in order to protect American Samoa’s
critical tuna industry.

"I have always believed that workers in American Samoa are
the backbone of the U.S. tuna industry and I believe our canneries have an
obligation to protect the future of our workers," Faleomavaega said in a
written statement. "I also believe the U.S. government has an obligation to
protect our interests and this is why I am pleased that the White House
Administration, the State Department, and the U.S. Trade Representative have
supported my request to revise the tuna provisions in the Compact."

The revisions, Faleomavaega said, would remove a new provision
doubling the amount of canned tuna the two Pacific nations could export to U.S.
markets duty-free – to 20 percent of total consumption of tuna in the U.S.

"In other words, American Samoa’s tuna industry will be
protected from the threat of Micronesian competition and FSM and the Marshall
Islands will be restricted to the terms of the old agreement, which limits the
amount of canned tuna they can send to a combined total of 10% of U.S.
consumption," Faleomavaega said.

Faleomavaega’s statement comes as Congress wraps up its
deliberations on the proposed renewal of the two 20-year compacts between the
United States and its former Pacific territories. A spokesman last week
predicted the Compacts would be approved by the U.S. by July 7.

Calling the compact terms "a serious matter for American
Samoa," Faleomavaega recently cited provisions of the compacts which, if
approved by the U.S. Congress, would double the amount of tuna that could enter
the United States from the Marshalls and the FSM duty free.

While the previous compacts exempted duties on up to 10 percent
of canned tuna from the two Pacific nations collectively, new terms announced by
U.S. trade officials would grant the Marshalls and the FSM each a 10 percent
exemption, amounting to a 20 percent exemption on tuna from the region, the
congressman said.

"This means that if the Compact is signed, up to 10 million
cases of canned tuna per year could enter the U.S. duty-free, and I am deeply
disappointed by this change, Faleomavaega said in an earlier written statement.

Faleomavaega noted that neither the Marshalls nor the FSM has a
significant tuna fishing fleet, accepting most of the tuna it processes for
canning from Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese vessels.

"I have expressed my concerns that this newly negotiated
agreement is a backdoor approach for foreign countries to send their tuna into
the U.S. exempt from duty."

Faleomavaega said that about 10,000 tons of tuna is offloaded in
the Marshalls per year, most of it by Asian flagships.

June 24, 2003

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