American Samoa Explores 'Viable Trade And Commerce' With Tonga

ASG delegation travels to Nuku‘alofa 

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, May 15, 2017) – Exploring “viable trade and commerce” between American Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga was the focus of a recent visit by ASG officials to Nuku’alofa, with recommendations to be provided to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, says Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele, who led the territory’s delegation.

“Governor's delegation was well received and fare-welled by the government of Tonga,” Lafaele told Samoa News over the weekend. “Tonga is preparing a trade mission to the territory and will take place soon.”

Traveling with Lafaele was the Governor’s Tonga Liaison Officer, Mafi Sione Lousiale Lotolua Kava, who liaisons between the ASG and the local Tongan community. It was in 2005 that the late King of Tonga, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV bestowed the High Chief title of “Mafi To ‘i Amerika Samoa”, to Kava.

Lafaele says ASG’s leased land in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa was also one of issues discussed durning the trip, besides trade and commerce.

As previously reported by Samoa News, it was during the Lutali Administration in 1986 that a land exchange deal was struck between American Samoa and Tonga, with American Samoa given a three-acre land situated in Popua, Nuku’alofa. In exchange, Tonga was given a parcel of ASG land in Tafuna that has been utilized as a market to sell their goods, including Tongan agricultural produce.

Over the years, past administrations have tried to find ways to utilize the land in Tonga and the Lolo Administration has done the same, even sending a delegation to Nuku’alofa to look at possible ways to best use the land about three years ago.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Lafaele says the governor’s delegation visit to Tonga “was exploratory in nature” and “based on the visit, recommendations regarding use of land will be submitted to Governor for his consideration and decision making.”

“The focus of recommendation is fostering viable trade and commerce between the Kingdom of Tonga and the Territory,” said Lafaele.

While specific targets for trade and commerce between Tonga and American Samoa are part of on going discussions, an ASG Treasury Department report last December to the Lolo and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Peleti Mauga shows that imports from Tonga in fiscal year 2013 reached just over $1.81 million.

However, the numbers declined thereafter — with $770,459 with FY 2014 and $560,174 in FY 2015 but increased slightly up to $976,589 in FY 2016.

The Treasury Department report does not provided specific commodities that were imported into the territory, but one of the biggest imports is the Tongan watermelon.

When the multi million dollar MV Manu’atele arrived Jan. 4, 2017, the Lolo Administration lauded the vessel to be used for ocean transportation to other neighboring countries, such as Tonga.

“We’re aiming to use the MV Manuatele to deliver goods and get raw materials from nearby countries, like Tonga, Samoa, Tokelau,” Lafaele said during a presentation in February this year to the Chamber of Commerce, adding that ASG is looking to improve trade with these and other neighboring countries.

The Lolo Administration has also looked at other countries, such as Tonga, to bring their boats and vessels for repair at the government owned shipyard in Satala.

Asked if the there was any push during the Nuku’alofa visit to have Tonga vessels repaired at the shipyard, Lafaele responded, “Yes, I put it out there that our shipyard is undergoing significant repairs and renovations, and is available to service Tonga government and privately owned boats.” Lafaele is also the chairman of the American Samoa Shipyard Services Authority.

While in Tonga, the governor’s delegation, met with the officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Ministry of Land and Natural Resources; public enterprises; electricity commission; Tonga Forestry and Milling Company; tourism authority; and “a couple of key members of the business community and investors,” said Lafaele.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2017. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.2 (5 votes)

Add new comment