Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is adamantly opposed to S. 1739, a bill Senator Kerry introduced on October 16, 2003 which would provide for duty-free treatment for tuna in airtight pouches. Kerry’s bill is referred to as the Fair Trade in Pouch Tuna Act of 2003 and a companion bill may also be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Ron Neal of Massachusetts.
“In short, S. 1739 would eliminate tariffs on pouch tuna from the ASEAN nations, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and proposes to do so because the ASEAN nations are friends and allies in the ongoing fight against world terrorism,” Congressman Faleomavaega said.
“Additionally, S. 1739 suggests that tariffs should be eliminated because the beneficiary countries of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) are not subject to tariffs on pouch tuna and that as a result ASEAN member nations are placed at a competitive disadvantage that has harmed the economies of these nations.”
“While I appreciate the intent of S. 1739 to provide parity to the ASEAN nations, I believe S. 1739 is based on two faulty premises. One assumes that trade and friendship are synonymous and, therefore, if a nation is a friend or an ally in the fight against world terrorism, tariffs should be eliminated for the nation that is a friend of ours. The other assumes that the economies of the ASEAN member nations have suffered as a result of the ATPDEA.”
“I submit that both of these premises are flawed and neither should be used as a reason to provide duty-free treatment for tuna in airtight pouches,” Congressman Faleomavaega said. “As the Ranking Member of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, I do not believe trade, and in this instance, tuna, should be used as an instrument of foreign policy. Neither do I believe our allies should believe, expect, or demand that the U.S. should reward them with preferential trade agreements for their support in the ongoing fight against world terrorism.”
“For a countless number of other reasons, our friends and allies should support us. First and foremost, they should support us for the protection we offer and for the billions we expend in developing their economies.”
“We simply cannot afford to politicize tuna by tinkering with tariffs,” the Congressman said. “Instead, we should work from the premise that tuna is about economics. More than 85% of American Samoa’s economy is based either directly, or indirectly, on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries. Any fluctuation in the global tuna market threatens the livelihood of more than 5,000 workers in American Samoa.”
“In part this is due to the fact that the only market for tuna from American Samoa is the United States. The reason for this is simple. The Andean countries, the ASEAN member nations, and the European Union impose high duties on tuna from the U.S. and its territories. Put another way, our friends and allies have not reduced or eliminated tariffs because of our support in the ongoing fight against terrorism and neither should we. For S. 1739 to suggest otherwise is an affront to every displaced worker in the United States.”
“As for the suggestion that ASEAN member nations have been disadvantaged as a result of the ATPDEA, I would like to set the record straight,” Faleomavaega said. “From January 2003 – August 2003, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand sent a combined total of more than 3 million kilos of albacore tuna into the U.S. The Andean countries sent a combined total of 408,000 kilos. From January 2003 – August 2003, ASEAN member nations sent more than 21 million kilos of lightmeat tuna to the U.S. The Andean countries sent less than 4 million kilos. It is a stretch of the imagination for S. 1739 to assert that the economies of ASEAN member nations have suffered as a result of the ATPDEA.”
“For these reasons, I have called upon my colleagues to join with me in working against S. 1739. Throughout this process, I will do everything I can to make sure that the U.S. tuna boat owners and the economy of American Samoa are protected. The U.S. tuna fleet has depended on the canneries in American Samoa to provide an outlet for the majority of their catches since the 1980’s when they were required to move their vessels from the Eastern Pacific to the Western Pacific Ocean to comply with new dolphin saving regulations. In fact, the U.S. tuna fleet provides more than 70% of the catch used in American Samoa’s canneries and any steps taken to weaken the competitive position of American Samoa will ultimately weaken their prospects for the future.”
“This said, S. 1739 is not in the best interest of American Samoa and it is not in the best interest of the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries. Unfortunately, what is happening is that other regions of the world are now asking for the same benefits our government gave the Andean countries and it appears that there is no end in sight to the legislation that will be offered to accommodate these requests.”
“No matter what, I will work against S. 1739 and any other legislation which threatens American Samoa’s economy and I also call upon the people of American Samoa to stand together on this important issue. We must protect our present and future interests and we must do everything we can to make sure we are successful in our efforts,” the Congressman concluded.