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Governor says report won’t be put on shelf

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (Samoa News, March 3, 2008) - To spur economic development, a government report compiled by McPhee & Associates recommends that American Samoa strengthen the Governor's Economic Council, the local government's relationship with the tuna canneries and the role of federal government, which the report says is critical to the territory's development.

The report is part of Gov. Togiola Tulafono's written testimony presented Thursday to the U.S. Senate Energy and Resource Committee hearing on the federal minimum wage law for American Samoa.

"This report is important because it gives us a strong sense of what could happen in the future if American Samoa were to lose our largest industry, the tuna canneries," Togiola said in a Feb. 22 cover letter attached to the report which begins, 'Dear Citizens and Friends of American Samoa'.

"Our report tells us about the options for rebuilding, recovery and strengthening our economy for the future," said Togiola, who points out that the report will not end up gathering dust on shelves.

Several provisions of the report are included in the U.S. Department of Labor's minimum wage impact study on American Samoa.

The report recommends strengthening the Private-Public Sector Governor's Economic Advisory Council, which was established last year to facilitate the exchange of information between the public and private sector.

It recommends continued support of private-public sector efforts to help identify export industries and sectors that offer a comparative advantage, and identifies obstacles to the development of those industries.

"Explore opportunities that arise from federal laws or policies including labeling requirements, minority set-aside or preference programs, military procurement, and products or services requiring or benefiting from US domestic production," the report recommends.

Additionally, seek out niches from international trade trends or US trade laws including industries which benefit from operating on American soil (e.g., barge and small ship building and repair), and laws and regulations pertaining to anti-dumping listees, countervailing duties, Headnote 3(a), the Jones Act, the Nicholson Act, and others.

"Utilize American Samoa's own professional and technical expertise in ventures to export those services to other island nations and elsewhere e.g., managers, engineers, lawyers, medical personnel, and others," the report recommends. "Target foreign direct investment to export income industries (e.g., manufacturing, tourism, etc.)."

It's also recommended to "encourage the expansion of existing locally owned businesses or the establishment of new locally owned businesses to meet the goods and services needs of the local market."

It is recommended that ASG strengthen consultations with the canneries on their needs and emphasizes that government "develop policies and programs for dealing with unemployed US Nationals and foreign workers."

"It is in American Samoa's interest to retain the canneries at some level of operation for as long as possible to retain jobs and aid in a transition to other forms of operation (e.g., loin processing and pouch production) or a transition to replacement industries," the report recommends.

The report also recommends that ASG seek "contingency assistance for possible precipitous cannery decline" by exploring opportunities for assistance from pertinent federal agencies.

According to the report, ASG should continue efforts to establish more effective working relationships with the private sector pertaining to development priorities, government operations and programs, education and training, private sector development opportunities, tax laws, immigration laws, business licensing laws, procurement practices, and general business climate matters.

"Establish a system of ASG incentives for workers and management to seek more efficient and effective ways to encourage development through the issuance of licenses and permits, leases, procurement, immigration, customs, and education and training," the report recommends.

ASG needs to 'strengthen business and investment climate', by continuing to seek improvements in public infrastructure and services in all areas, it recommends. In addition, make education improvements at all levels, essential to productivity and income gains especially as almost all modern developments employ technological advances to an increasing extent.

It is also recommended that ASG improve economic Indicators by collecting more timely annual employment and personal income data to better track the economy.

According to the report, the federal government is critical to the territory's development. It points out that a stronger federal role in territorial economic development policy has been recommended over the years and the report provides three recommendations:

Issues that might be addressed include federal taxes and incentives, immigration and customs, minimum wage, international trade, transportation, federal grant requirements, federal laws and programs, consolidating data on federal economic development expenditures in the insular areas, OIA's conferences and business opportunities missions, and others.

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