|July 26, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—ANDEAN TRADE AGREEMENT PASSES HOUSE WITH REVISIONS ON TUNA|
| Congressman Faleomavaega
announced today that by a narrow vote of 215 to 212 the House passed a
House-Senate conference report on trade legislation which included the
Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).
“Canned tuna has been protected and will not enter the U.S. duty-free,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “However, the House has agreed to authorize the President with the authority to grant duty-free treatment for tuna packed in foil pouches. Like Chicken of the Sea, the U.S. tuna boat owners, and Bumble Bee, I continue to oppose duty-free treatment for tuna packed in any form but I am pleased that we were able to protect our canning operations.”
“Canned tuna accounts for about 94% of the U.S. market share and pouch products account for less than 5% of tuna operations in American Samoa. This means that we have been successful in protecting the immediate interests of the Territory but this also means it is time for American Samoa to seriously consider new ways to diversify its economy.”
“Pouch products are expected to grow to an 8% share by 2005, 12.2% by 2007, and about 15.4% of total U.S. tuna trade by 2012. If these numbers hold, canning operations in American Samoa may suffer five years from now and we must be prepared in the case of this eventuality. At this time, Dennis Mussell, CEO of Chicken of the Sea International/Samoa Packing, has assured me of his continued commitment to American Samoa. He is very pleased that we have been able to protect canning operations in American Samoa and he has also stated that he will continue to produce food service size pouches at COS/Samoa Packing.”
“I am also pleased that through the united efforts of Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee, the U.S. tuna boat owners, Senators John Breaux (D-LA), Max Baucus, (D-MT), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Frank Murkowski (R-AK). Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Congressmen Charles Rangel, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and Anibal Acevedo-Vila (D-PR), we were successful in protecting the U.S. tuna fishing fleet which is based in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“To protect the U.S. tuna boat owners, we included a rules of origin provision which requires all tuna, including lightmeat and albacore, to be caught by U.S. or Andean flag ships. This means that any pouch entering the U.S. from Andean countries must meet this fish origin requirement or it will not be treated as duty-free.”
“It was critical for us to win on this point because American Samoa cannot afford to lose the U.S. tuna boat owners and the U.S. tuna boat owners cannot afford to lose American Samoa. The U.S. tuna boat owners contribute over $18 million per year to the economy of American Samoa through fuel purchases alone,” the Congressman said. “They also supply about 200,000 tons, or 17 million cases, of tuna per year to our local canneries. Fish sales account for about $140 million per year.”
“The U.S. tuna fleet also fishes almost exclusively in the Western Pacific Tropic and if canning production had shifted from American Samoa (Western Pacific Tropic) to Ecuador (Eastern Pacific Tropic), the U.S. tuna boat owners would have been forced out of business for one simple reason,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “There are no more fishing licenses left in the Eastern Pacific Tropic which means our boat owners would have been forced to transship their fish from the Western Pacific Tropic to the Eastern Pacific Tropic at a cost disadvantage that would have been impossible to overcome.”
“As I said in my House floor statement, the U.S. tuna boat owners are almost entirely dependent on cannery production in American Samoa and cannery production in American Samoa is almost entirely dependent on the U.S. tuna boat owners. If one goes down, the other goes down. As I also explained, the Spanish fishing fleet, which is subsidized by the Government of Spain, is alive and well and fishing for lightmeat tuna in the Eastern Pacific Tropic. Taiwan and Japan are well at work transshipping albacore tuna to the Andean countries. It is a well-documented fact that StarKist is purchasing albacore from Taiwan and Japan and transshipping it directly to Ecuador for packing.”
“To protect the interests of American Samoa and the U.S. tuna boat owners, I emphatically stated that I do not believe the ATPA should provide backdoor benefits for non-Andean countries. Neither Spain nor Japan nor Taiwan should be allowed to send their tuna into the U.S. market duty-free. In my opinion, this would violate the intent of the ATPA and would place American Samoa at risk,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I am pleased that the House and Senate conferees agreed with this assessment and provided American Samoa and the U.S. tuna boat owners with a rules of origin provision which prevents other countries from using the ATPA as a loophole for duty-free treatment. As a result of this victory, we have especially protected our albacore business and made it possible for the U.S. tuna boat owners to continue to fish in the Western Pacific Tropic,” Faleomavaega said.
“By protecting our U.S. tuna boat owners, we have also protected American Samoa’s canneries for the next few years. But we did not get everything we wanted and I continue to stand firmly opposed to duty-free treatment for tuna packed in cans, pouches, or any other kind of airtight container. Simply put, we do not know how tuna will be packed in the future. Will consumers prefer the pouch to the can? I do not know.”
“I do know that Reuters news service recently reported that StarKist intends to move away from 6 oz. cans and boost distribution of tuna in a pouch. StarKist has also publicly stated that it will never pack 7 oz. retail pouches in American Samoa,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “If this is the case, I believe duty-free treatment for pouches or cans poses a threat to American Samoa.”
“The simple fact that concessions have been made to the Andean countries also poses a threat to American Samoa. The ASEAN countries will not be pleased with this outcome and I am sure they will soon be calling upon the U.S. Congress to provide them with the same preferential trade treatment that has been provided to the Andean countries. We must be prepared,” Faleomavaega said.
“At present, we have bought ourselves a few years to diversify our economy and build albacore fisheries in American Samoa and the Pacific Island region. Presently, Taiwan and Japan catch about 70% of the world’s supply of albacore and about 30% of all tuna canned in American Samoa is albacore. This albacore is caught in the Western Pacific Tropic and off-loaded on our docks by foreign vessels who contribute next to nothing to our economy.”
“It is time for us to take a hard look at this issue,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “If we are serious about staying in the tuna business, we need to get serious about developing albacore fisheries. Simply put, there is more profit in albacore than lightmeat tuna. This is why StarKist fought us every step of the way on source of origin. StarKist fought hard to get Congress to make an exception for albacore under the rules of origin. But we fought back because we did not believe it was fair for Congress to provide duty-free treatment for albacore caught by Taiwan and Japan. We did not believe it was fair for StarKist to use the ATPA as a way to purchase albacore from foreign countries and then ship it to the U.S. duty-free in foil pouches.”
“Had StarKist been successful, American Samoa could have lost its albacore business to Ecuador and this would have forced a reduction in workforce or a closure of one or both of our canneries,” Faleomavaega said. “For now, I believe we have limited our economic loss because we stood united as a Territory. We worked together to protect our future and now we must work together to build and sustain our fisheries. We are facing unprecedented challenges as tuna is increasingly being used as an instrument of foreign policy. After a forty-year relationship with the Heinz Company, we are also facing the sell-off of StarKist.”
“American Samoa is facing historic change and we must not take these matters lightly. We must become more knowledgeable about the global tuna industry. We must become more active in world tuna trade organizations. We must become more engaged in regional issues. Our economy is more than 80% dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the U.S. tuna and fishing processing industries, and we must not let our local canneries dictate our future.”
“I want to thank Dennis Mussell, President of Chicken of the Sea International, Chris Lischewski, CEO of Bumble Bee, the U.S. tuna boat owners, Senator John Breaux, Chairman William Thomas, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Diane McRee, Paul Krampe, Julius Zolezzi, Jeff Pike, and most especially the people of American Samoa for working together to protect the interests of American Samoa. Next week, the Senate is expected to also vote in favor of this trade legislation and at this time the matter of the ATPA will be finally resolved. Although I do not support and will never support trade legislation that does not include capacity limitations on canned or pouched tuna, I do believe H.R. 3009 protects American Samoa’s immediate future and I am thankful that we have won on this point,” Faleomavaega said.
“I am also pleased that our differences with StarKist can now be resolved. For more than a year, StarKist has pushed for duty-free treatment of canned tuna and has opposed rules of origin. For more than a year, American Samoa has fought for capacity limitations and insisted on rules of origin. After a year of hard-fought struggle, StarKist settled for pouches, we won rules of origin, and we were also successful in protecting all canned tuna products. I am hopeful that we can now lay the matter to rest and move forward. I would like to welcome Del Monte to our islands and I look forward to building new relations,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.
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