Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he recently met with Don Binotto, President of StarKist Seafoods, and Dave Burney, President of the U.S. Tuna Foundation to discuss IRS 936 benefits and the USDA Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) program. The meeting was held in Faleomavaega’s Washington office on Tuesday, February 24, 2004.
“I am pleased that StarKist requested an appointment with me to discuss the future of its cannery in American Samoa. Again, we have agreed that if 936 benefits can be extended which provide our canneries with the tax benefits they need to remain competitive and if we can also find a way to fight off increased competition from the ASEAN nations, StarKist will remain committed to doing business in American Samoa,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Although we have differing opinions about wages, we are working together and in conjunction with Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing on 936 benefits and the USDA COOL program. At this time, I have secured the support of key Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to move H.R. 1424, a bill I introduced to extend 936 benefits to our canneries for another ten years. It is possible that we may have this legislation passed within the coming weeks or in the next few months.”
“We have also reached a compromise on the USDA COOL program. StarKist has given me its assurances that it uses loins only when whole fish supplies are low and Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing has assured me of the same. Based on our discussions, I have promised both StarKist and Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing that I will introduce language which will exempt our canneries from country of origin labeling or minimize the number of labels which may be required,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Minimizing the labeling process will reduce costs for our canneries and will give them the advantages they need to compete against foreign tuna catching nations. As I have repeatedly stated, when it comes to canned tuna, every foreign tuna catching nation including Ecuador, Thailand, the Philippines, and Taiwan wants the same trade privileges as the U.S. Territory of American Samoa.”
“Given that our economy is more than 85% dependent either directly or indirectly on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries, we must prevent foreign competition and this must be our top priority. If we lose our tuna industry or if production significantly decreases, all other costs including health care, electricity, food, and gas prices in American Samoa will skyrocket. This is why I am fully committed to protecting and diversifying American Samoa’s economy.”
“This is why I must also postpone my trip to Iraq. Legislation affecting 936 may reach the House and Senate as early as next week and I must be in Washington to make sure H.R. 1424 is passed if considered. Be this as it may, my thoughts and prayers are always with our military men and women and their families. As a fellow veteran, I continue to wish our troops the very best and I look forward to being with our soldiers in the near future,” the Congressman concluded.