Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that Mr. Bo Bryant, Director of Federal Government Relations for the McDonald’s Corporation, contacted his office on June 17, 2005 and requested a meeting to discuss the controversy surrounding the potential construction of a McDonald’s at Utulie beach. The meeting was held yesterday in the Congressman’s Washington office and Ms. Nicole E. Storey, a Government Relations Specialist for McDonald’s, also attended the meeting. The meeting was in response to Congressman Faleomavaega’s letter to Mr. Charles Tautolo dated May 25, 2005 and copied to the Vice Chairman and CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation.
“My meeting with Mr. Bryant was very worthwhile,” the Congressman said, “and I am pleased that the McDonald’s corporation is taking this issue seriously. McDonald’s has built its reputation on being a good corporate citizen and upholding the values of the communities which it serves and, today, the McDonald’s corporation has demonstrated that the people of American Samoa matter.”
“My job is to make sure that your concerns on behalf of the people are heard and addressed,” Mr. Bryant told the Congressman, “and we are only at the beginning of this process.” Mr. Bryant gave the Congressman his personal assurances that he would report back to his leadership about the concerns the Congressman raised in the meeting and that he would also keep Congressman Faleomavaega updated as this matter progresses.
“From the outset, I made it clear that the people of American Samoa will support the establishment of another McDonald’s at any location other than our only public beach. However, as I explained to Mr. Bryant, there is no point of compromise when it comes to Utulie beach and I remain hopeful that this situation can be diffused.”
“While I appreciate the contributions Mr. Tautolo has made to the local community, I expressed my concerns about the feasibility study that should have been conducted before any kind of contractual agreement was entered into between McDonald’s and our local government. In fact, I informed Mr. Bryant that I had requested a copy of the feasibility study but, to date, I have not received a copy or a response to my request,” Faleomavaega said.
“Mr. Bryant said that he was not aware of whether or not a feasibility study had been conducted and he thought that at least four or five more permits still needed to be acquired and, without those, construction could not begin. He said it was also his understanding that a public hearing would be scheduled in the near future and he asked if I would like to participate. I told him that if my schedule permits I will definitely participate.”
“I also informed Mr. Bryant that our local Senate passed a resolution opposing construction at Utulie beach and that Mr. Roy Hall, the general counsel for the Senate, is questioning the legality of the lease agreement. By law, any lease agreement that extends beyond 10 years must be approved by our Legislature. In this instance, it is my understanding that a lease agreement was signed between McDonald’s and ASG for 9 years, 11 months and 29 or so days with an option to renew for 30 years.”
“Mr. Bryant said he was not aware of these developments and expressed concern about the questions surrounding the lease agreement. As Mr. Bryant agreed, use of the McDonald’s name is not just a local issue. McDonald’s is a global corporation worth approximately $36 billion and the corporation is very protective of its name.”
“If we were talking about a local fast-food operation not affiliated with a national or international chain, then this would be a local issue. But we are not talking about a village store. We are talking about McDonald’s and, therefore, the McDonald’s corporation is interested in what is happening in American Samoa,” the Congressman said.
“At this time, I am very pleased that the McDonald’s corporation is committed to reviewing the legal and social aspects of constructing a McDonald’s at Utulei beach. I am also pleased that Mr. Bryant has agreed to keep my office informed about any new developments in this case. In turn, I am reviewing the possibility of introducing federal legislation to include Utulei beach as part of the National Park of American Samoa so as to prevent any company including but not limited to KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, or local businesses from building at this site.”
“I believe we must not only resolve the immediate crisis facing us but we should also protect ourselves in the future from any other corporation seeking to build at Utulei beach. Utulei beach offers the only stretch of shoreline where outrigger canoes and fautasi, or longboats, can enter deep water via the natural channel through the reef and, out of respect and reverence for our Samoan traditions and customs, I believe we must work together to preserve Utulei beach.”
“On a separate matter, I also mentioned to Mr. Bryant that I am concerned that American Samoa is being treated like a foreign country by the McDonald’s corporation. It does not make sense to me why we have to get permission from Australia in order to establish a McDonald’s in American Samoa. American Samoa is a territory of the United States and our local owners ought to be able to do business with McDonald’s in America, not Australia.”
“I also expressed my concerns about the previous lease agreement done for McDonald’s at the current site in Tafuna. It is my understanding that the previous lease agreement between ASG and McDonald’s stipulates that all lawsuits must be filed in Australia and be subjected to Australian law. This is not fair to ASG or to anyone in American Samoa and I suggested that the attorneys in Australia representing McDonald’s should be more ethical in the contracts they put forward in this territory.”
“While I have not heard from McDonald’s Australia regarding construction at Utulei beach, I appreciate Mr. Bryant’s efforts in meeting with me and I thanked him for the great service McDonald’s is currently providing in American Samoa. The people of American Samoa welcome and support McDonald’s and we continue to remain hopeful that this situation can be favorably resolved,” the Congressman concluded.