Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar regarding ASPIRE during a meeting held by the Congressional Caucus on Asian Pacific Americans (CAPAC) on Wednesday, January 27, 2010.
“At my request, the Chairman of CAPAC, Congressman Mike Honda, agreed to include the ASPIRE bill as part of our Caucus agenda,” Faleomavaega said. “In the course of our discussion, I informed Secretary Salazar that a Congressional hearing had already been held on ASPIRE and that OIA Director Nik Pula testified on behalf of the Obama Administration in support of the principles of ASPIRE, although there is agreement that modifications need to be made.”
“Secretary Salazar understands that American Samoa is a single-industry economy entirely dependent on the tuna industry and that our last remaining tuna cannery can no longer compete against low-wage countries like Thailand that pay their workers $0.75 cents and less per hour to clean fish. Secretary Salazar said he would look into how the Department of the Interior can be supportive of our tuna issue, and I thanked him for his commitment.”
“Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta accompanied Secretary Salazar to our CAPAC meeting and nine other Members of Congress were also present, including Congressman Honda, Congresswoman Bordallo, Congressman Bobby Scott, Congressman Joseph Cao, Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, Congressman Sablan, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, and Congressman Al Green.”
“As a follow-up to our CAPAC meeting, I also held a meeting in my office with OIA Director Nik Pula and Chairman Rahall’s Committee staff, and we are aggressively working to find a solution that helps save the jobs of our cannery workers and that helps us rebuild after Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing closed down its operations in American Samoa without the courtesy of any discussion with our elected leaders.”
“Again, I thank Secretary Salazar for his personal commitment and I also deeply appreciate the support of Chairman Nick Rahall of the Committee on Natural Resources. I look forward to our continued work together as we seek to do all that we can do for and on behalf of the people of American Samoa,” Faleomavaega concluded.