Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is extremely disappointed in the US State Department’s failure to consult about American Samoa’s application for observer status at the Pacific Forum.
“As of last evening, I learned through the media that the US State Department has asked the Secretary General to withdraw American Samoa’s application for observer status at the Pacific Forum. I am fully aware that the State Department is the lead agency on matters affecting US foreign policies and membership with the Pacific Forum and other international organizations.”
“However, I was blindsided that American Samoa had even submitted an application and I was disappointed that the State Department failed to inform me of American Samoa’s application before asking the Secretary General to defer action on the Territory’s application. Like any federal agency, I would hope the State Department would consult with Members of Congress whose districts their decisions affect.”
“On the other hand, proper procedure and protocol dictates that, as a US Territory, any application submitted by American Samoa should come through the US State Department which represents US interests at the Pacific Forum. Had the application been properly submitted to the State Department rather than directly to the Pacific Forum, or had the State Department bothered to inform my office or the Governor’s office of its concerns, perhaps this matter could have been diplomatically resolved. Instead, the airwaves are carrying the story and the State Department now looks inept for working with a foreign Forum rather than an American territory which has been a part of the United States for 106 years.”
“I find this highly offensive and a disgrace. While the State Department may be the lead agency responsible for representing US interests at the Forum, the State Department should set the standard in the way it deals with Pacific Island peoples, especially the people of American Samoa. Our people fight and die to protect US interests and the least the US State Department can do is pick up the phone and talk with our elected officials before making recommendations to the Secretary General which could be interpreted to be unsupportive of our people and Territory.”
“As the Ranking Member of the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I expect more from Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. I expect him to direct his people to do a better job of communicating with the elected officials of American Samoa in matters involving this Territory.”
“To date, I have not received a copy of American Samoa’s application to the Pacific Forum. I also have not received a copy of the State Department’s response to the Secretary General. I expect to receive copies of both in the very near future and I am hopeful that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Glenn Davies, who has been in communication with my office Washington today, will see that these documents are forwarded to my office and that a resolution is quickly reached.”
“I am not concerned whether or not this resolution requires American Samoa to re-submit its application through proper channels or whether or not the State Department allows American Samoa to directly apply to the Forum. What matters is that American Samoa is allowed to participate as an observer at the Pacific Forum. I strongly encourage American Samoa’s participation because as Americans who are Polynesian and a part of the Pacific region we are in a unique position to act as goodwill ambassadors and promote an agenda of public diplomacy. Our participation in this Forum will also give American Samoa’s elected leaders an opportunity to establish close trade and economic ties with our regional partners.”
“While I am disappointed by the State Department’s recent actions, I am hopeful that the State Department will seriously consider my recommendation to allow American Samoa to participate as an observer in the Pacific Forum and I trust that a favorable resolution will be forthcoming,” Faleomavaega concluded.