Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing his strong support to grant American Samoa an opportunity to apply for observer status with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, formerly known as the South Pacific Forum. In 2006, at its 38th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji, American Samoa applied for observer status but their application was not considered by the Forum based on the advisement of the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State had done so without any consultation with either the American Samoa Government or Congressman Faleomavaega who was the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific at the time.
“I am hopeful that the State Department will give American Samoa and the other U.S. territories in the Pacific the opportunity to apply for observer status with the Pacific Islands Forum,” said Faleomavaega. “It is critical that they are able to participate and dialogue with the member nations of this important organization in the Pacific region. From fishing treaties and management to the rising cost of fuel prices, it is necessary that such input and technical assistance from the U.S. territories will provide significant contribution to the decision-making process of the Pacific Islands Forum.”
“The U.S. territories share the same ocean as the Pacific Islands Forum and with that the same issues that affect the region. It is unfortunate that the U.S. territories are not able to voice their concerns or raise any issues of interest with the Pacific Islands Forum in which they would be able to address with a common front. Given that U.S. presence in the Pacific region has slowly diminished in the last 20 years, the U.S. territories’ participation will provide another tool of U.S. diplomacy that is needed in this vital region. Importantly, it will empower the leaders of the U.S. territories in facilitating other avenues for economic trade and addressing critical issues such as growing populations and the impacts of climate change.”
“In my capacity as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, I am confident that with the support of President Obama’s Administration and Secretary Clinton, American Samoa and the other territories will be able to submit applications for observer status at the next Pacific Islands Forum Annual Meeting scheduled for August 2009 in Cairns, Australia,” concluded Faleomavaega.