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American Samoa biz community looks to tuna boost

American Samoa business leaders have thrown their support behind government hopes to boost the tuna industry and the sluggish local economy.

The US company Starkist is planning to relocate some tuna processing from Ecuador, in South America, and its plant in American Samoa is the likely destination.

David Robinson, president of the American Samoa chamber of commerce, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that any move would entail canning tuna, whereas in Ecuador it is marketed in plastic pouches.

"Starkist has been here for a long, long time, 50 years, and it's been a very, very important part of our local economy," Mr Robinson said. The cannery employs close to 2,000 people locally, while also attracting tuna fishing fleets.

Mr Robinson said Governor Lolo Letalu Matalasi Moliga recently stressed that he is planning to do all he can to help Starkist expand.

A hurdle, the business leader said, is an annual minium wage rise mandated by the US Congress in 2007. After protests, this is now on hold until September 2015.

"Between now and then the government has to do whatever it can to try and persuade Congress that our local economy just cannot afford these continual wage hikes.