“COMMUNITY STATEMENT TO STOP H.R. 2842 BEFORE CONGRESS”
To The Editor:
I hope our community is paying attention to the “Food Fight In D.C.” as reported by Samoa News on Thursday, January 9th. This is about H.R.2842 before Congress. While the bill will allow for the “tuna” to be landed from US flagged fishing vessels and for it to be “canned” in the United States or territories, it would require that “not less than 75% of the value of such tuna be produced in the United States”.
I may be wrong. But it appears to me that, if accepted, this will require canneries who import loins cleaned and processed in foreign countries with very low wages to drive fish prices as low as possible. Low fish prices and shifting of the competitive advantage to canneries that pack only imported loins from foreign sources will be devastating to our canneries and our fishing vessels.
To me, this is not just a fight for our industry. This is one more incident of American Samoa being put to the task of having to fight for its economic sustainability. Fighting for the survival of our canneries and our fishing fleet, indeed, is a fight for our families and their survival. I fear that if this proposal passes, it may very well decide the fate of our canneries and our fisheries. And when they go so will our jobs and the livelihood of thousands of our families and residents. Any hope, thereafter, of economic independence and self sufficiency for us in American Samoa will disappear.
It has been sad for me to see our nation continuing to ignore our quest to be self sustaining economically. We do not want to just keep asking for federal dollars. We want to be self reliant and be able to build a better and self sustaining economy. But more often than not, our nation continues to keep taking away the ability from us to do so. We have seen in the past few years how United States treaties and trade agreements continue to deteriorate our ability to build a self sufficient and self sustaining economy.
We will see further deterioration of that ability if this proposed change to the “Buy American Act” passes. This proposal aims not only to shift the competitive advantage to the canneries operating in the upper 48. It is also a mandate to send more American jobs to support foreign countries. Our jobs.
Our canneries and related fisheries support 80% of our economy. If we lose our fisheries industry, we have no other industry to speak of, nor do we see a whole lot of companies knocking on our government’s doors to bring their industry to American Samoa.
Losing our canneries, our fisheries, and the collapse of our economic base will once again relegate us to the status of a real dependent colony. What do I mean by that?
We will have no choice but to rely on the United States government to increase the annual subsidy we receive from the Department of Interior to finance as much as 90% of our local government operations supported by the economic contribution from the canneries and our fisheries. There will be no other industry out there that can give us the kind of support our canneries and fisheries gives us just to support essential services. Our only industry left will be the United States Government.
Our ability to attract industry is not just logistics. It is also made more difficult by the continuing threat of unpredictable federal legislations such as the federal “minimum wage” that creates uncertainty in an already difficult business environment. Yet, we are still without a permanent solution from Congress for this issue.
And as long as we have no permanent solution, it will not be advisable for any new industry to consider moving their business to American Samoa. Talk about being caught between a “rock and a hard place”. If that’s not enough, there is a new proposal moving from the White House to the Capitol proposing to increase the “minimum wage” across the board to $9.00. More to come?
I commend and support the coalition of StarKist, Tri Marine and some members of our Chamber of Commerce for their lobbying efforts together with the efforts of our Congressman Faleomavaega to oppose this proposal from Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea. They are doing their part.
However, I believe it is necessary also to have public expression of our concerns as to how devastated our homes and our families will be if this proposal is approved. We should, by way of a Community Statement, communicate to Congress through our Congressman and the “Stronger Economy for American Samoa Coalition”, our support for their opposition to H.R.2842.
If you are interested in protecting our canneries, our fisheries industry, our jobs and our families, call me at 733 4614 or come by my office on the second floor of the “Faatamalii Center” in Malae’imi, to pick up a copy of the Statement for supporting signatures. We will attempt to set up signing stations so you can drop by and sign your name to this “Community Statement” addressed to our Congressman and the Coalition.
Togiola T.A. Tulafono