|June 19, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|WASHINGTON, D.C.—FALEOMAVAEGA PROTECTS AMERICAN SAMOA’S TUNA INDUSTRY FROM MICRONESIAN COMPETITION|
Faleomavaega announced that he has successfully protected American Samoa’s
canned tuna industry from Micronesian competition.
“As I stated in a press release dated June 11, 2003, the U.S. State Department and the Office of the United States Trade Representative have been in negotiations with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia to renew the Compact of Free Association,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “As part of the negotiations, a provision was included in the new agreement which would have allowed both countries to increase the amount of tuna they could send to the U.S. free of charge.”
“Each country would have been allowed to send up to 10% for a combined total of 20% of U.S. consumption which would equate to about 8 million cases of canned tuna per year. Under the old agreement, both countries were limited to a combined total of 10% of U.S. consumption.”
“Because Congress has no part in the negotiations and can only vote up or down on the new agreement, I wrote to the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Trade Representative and informed them that I was not supportive of the proposed tuna changes,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “I also requested their support in revising the new agreement to reflect our past agreement with the Marshall Islands and the FSM.”
“On June 18, 2003, the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific held hearings about the Compact and I am pleased to announce that Albert V. Short, the negotiator for the Compact of Free Association, officially stated for the record that both the State Department and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) have agreed to revise the tuna provisions according to my request. In other words, American Samoa’s tuna industry will be protected from the threat of Micronesian competition and FSM and the Marshall Islands will be restricted to the terms of the old agreement which limits the amount of canned tuna they can send to a combined total of 10% of U.S. consumption.”
“As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I am pleased that the White House administration has supported my request and joined with me to protect the interests of American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said. “I am also pleased that my colleagues on the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific offered their support. As I have always said, the International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific plays a critical role in determining American Samoa’s future and this is just another example.”
“The truth is the Republic of the Marshall Islands processes 300 tons of tuna loins per month which if converted to cans is equivalent to 1 million cases of canned tuna per year. If at some point these processing operations were converted to canning operations the future of American Samoa’s tuna industry would be in question.”
“In fact,” the Congressman said, “for every 1 million cases of canned tuna that enters the U.S. duty free, American Samoa could lose up to 270 jobs, $18 million in processing revenue, $5 million in utility payments and other local revenue, $1.5 million in wages, and thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue. Although the Republic of the Marshall Islands is not yet shipping canned tuna to the U.S., 10,000 tons of whole fish is being offloaded in the Marshall Islands and this fish is being converted into loins and shipped to American Samoa to be put in cans.”
“As I said in my minimum wage statement, I am deeply concerned about the number of loins that are being shipped to American Samoa for processing and I believe it is an insult to our intelligence for both StarKist and Samoa Packing to assume that Samoans do not understand what this means for the Territory. Samoans understand that the use of precooked tuna loins as a raw material in canning operations could significantly influence the amount of labor needed in the production process. Samoans also understand that the production of loins, including the butchering and cleaning steps, accounts for up to 80% of the cost of labor in a full-scale cannery.”
“This means that if a cannery buys loins instead of whole fish it can substantially reduce its labor costs. In other words, the more loins you send to American Samoa, the less labor you need in our canneries. Less labor means downsizing and downsizing means many of our cannery workers will be out of jobs if StarKist and Samoa Packing continue to ship loins into American Samoa. Furthermore, our U.S. tuna boat owners who not only contribute more than $22 million per year to our economy but also supply 70% of the tuna processed in our canneries will also be out of business,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“I have always believed that workers in American Samoa are the backbone of the U.S. tuna industry and I believe our canneries have an obligation to protect the future of our workers. I also believe the U.S. government has an obligation to protect our interests and this is why I am pleased that the White House Administration, the State Department, and the USTR have supported my request to revise the tuna provisions in the Compact. Although I was unable to attend our minimum wage hearings due to these Compact negotiations,” the Congressman said, “I am pleased that we were successful in protecting American Samoa’s canned tuna industry from the threat of Micronesian competition and I am hopeful that we can now work with our local canneries to protect our tuna industry for generations to come.”
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