Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is responding to an editorial by Aliimau H. Scanlan Jr. entitled US tuna policies affecting American Samoa. In his editorial, Mr. Scanlan makes two false claims which need to be corrected for the record.
One, Mr. Scanlan alleges that Faleomavaega has focused his efforts only on IRS section 936 and not on upcoming trade agreements. Two, Mr. Scanlan claims that a Washington lobbyist is responsible for the defeat of the Andean trade bill. Both allegations are false.
In the first paragraph of his editorial, Mr. Scanlan states that “The American Samoa Government, including our Congressional Representative, have focused a lot of attention on saving Internal Revenue Code 936. They mistakenly equate saving IRC 36 as the way of keeping the two tuna canneries operating in the territory. However, a number of other trade issues will play an equally important role. Chief among these issues are…tuna tariffs on canned tuna entering the United States.” Mr. Scanlan continues by mentioning tariff rates affecting Ecuador, Thailand and the Philippines.
“While I cannot speak on behalf of ASG,” Faleomavaega said, “Mr. Scanlan is off in his assessment of my work regarding tuna tariffs and I would refer Mr. Scanlan to numerous press releases posted on my government site since 2002 in which I have kept the public informed about my work on IRS Section 936 as well as the Andean, Central America, and Thailand Free Trade Agreements which propose to reduce tariff rates not just on tuna but on many other commodities.”
“For the record, I have testified before the International Trade Commission regarding Andean, Central America, and Thailand Free Trade agreements and I have worked closely with the US trade negotiators to protect the interests of American Samoa’s canneries and fishing fleet in each of these agreements.”
“I have also kept the Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee aware of American Samoa’s needs. Thus far, we have been successful in keeping canned tuna in water in the longest phase out tariff rates possible and we have also been able to include a rules of origin which requires tuna to be caught by US tuna vessels or vessels of the beneficiary country. However, as I have said for the past ten years, American Samoa cannot fend off free trade forever.”
“At some point, our local leaders must put a plan in place to develop our local economy and this was the reason the federal government agreed in 1999 to set aside $600,000 for the establishment of an American Samoa Economic Development Commission. The Commission completed its report in 2000 and no action has yet been taken,” Faleomavaega said.
“While I appreciate Mr. Scanlan’s efforts to support what I have been saying since 2000 about the need to diversify our economy and prepare for the day when our canneries may leave, I must correct the misinformation he has reported about the Andean trade bill. Mr. Scanlan wrongly states that the Andean trade bill’s “defeat in Congress was probably more the result of efforts by Diane McRee, a Washington DC lobbyist hired by Bumble Bee. A former staffer for Senator John Breaux, she convinced her former boss who is also a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, to push through the Senate version of the Andean Trade pact.”
“Having served in Washington for ten years, Mr. Scanlan knows that it takes more than one vote to get an amendment passed. In the case of the Senate Finance Committee, the Breaux amendment passed by a vote of 11-9.”
“Six Senators voted in favor of the amendment at my request including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AK), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY).”
“The five remaining votes were made by Senator John Breaux (D-LA), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).”
“In fairness to Senator Breaux, I might also point out that even when he was a Member of the US House of Representatives he supported the US tuna boat owners and I believe he would have supported their efforts regarding Andean trade with or without the request of a lobbyist.”
“Additionally, the passage of the Breaux amendment was only half of the battle. The House had to accept the conditions of the Senate or we would have been dead in the water. Thankfully, Chairman Bill Thomas of the powerful Ways and Means Committee chose to protect the interests of American Samoa and I continue to be thankful for his support. He has been our true champion.”
“Finally, may it be known that the late Governor Tauese Sunia, our late Senate President Lutu Fuimaono, members of the Fono, the US tuna boat owners association, Dennis Mussell, CEO of Chicken of the Sea/Samoa Packing, Chris Lischewski, CEO of Bumble Bee, and especially the people of American Samoa, stood together in fighting off Ecuador’s attempts to reduce tariff rates that would have cost our cannery workers their jobs.”
“At this time, my office continues to be deeply engaged in discussions involving the upcoming Thailand Free trade agreement as well as the Andean trade agreement which is being re-negotiated by the Bush Administration. I also will continue to do what needs to be done in the case of IRS section 936 although Mr. Scanlan is correct in suggesting that it is not a make or break deal but rather an incentive for our canneries.”
“This is supported by the fact that through out the 936 process I have asked our canneries for a letter of commitment as has the Chairman of Ways and Means. We have asked both canneries to commit to staying in American Samoa if possession tax credits are extended and, at each and every turn, our canneries will not offer us a long-term commitment.”
“But I do not fault our canneries for this. Our canneries are driven by the cost of doing business. If it ever becomes cheaper to do business elsewhere, our canneries will have to go and, ultimately, tariff rates will determine whether or not our canneries leave or stay. Like every other State and Territory, American Samoa is caught up in a global economy. Tariff rates are being reduced world-wide not just on tuna but on every commodity imaginable. This said, we cannot hold on forever and I am hopeful that ASG will be ready when and if the canneries leave or reduce their workforce,” the Congressman concluded.