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New relationship with Indonesia significant step

Local Chamber of Commerce chairman David Robinson says American Samoa's newly established relationship with Indonesia is a significant step in the territory’s expansion of its “economic horizons” in response to changing global economic conditions.

Robinson was a member of the territory’s delegation led by Gov. Togiola Tulafono that traveled to Indonesia in October this year. Also with the delegation was Lelei Peau, deputy director for the ASG Commerce Department.

Their travel to the Asian country followed a visit to the territory earlier this year by Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, the Indonesian Ambassador to the U.S. based in Washington D.C. While he was here, Djalal met with local officials including the governor and the Chamber’s executive board.

The territory’s delegation met first in Jakarta with the country’s president and other cabinet members as well as the chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, and at these meetings a range of opportunities for a closer working relationship in direct foreign investment, trade in fisheries diversification, tourism, e-commerce and the consideration of free trade zone activity for foreign countries seeking access to US markets were all discussed, said Robinson yesterday providing his take on the trip. 

The delegation then moved to Manado, the capital of the North Sulawesi Province with the prime purpose of drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of Sister City relations between Manado and Pago Pago. (The desire for a Sisterhood relationship was first revealed by Djalal while in Pago Pago).

Robinson says discussions were held with officials from the Provincial Government  of North Sulawesi on trade and joint venture opportunities, and site visits to their two tuna processing plants and the shipyard were conducted.

The delegation then moved to Bali to hold talks with the chairman of the Bali Tourist Board and his Directors.

Robinson says a number of trade and investment opportunities and technical assistance programs will be followed up by DOC and the private sector including tourism, e-commerce, manufacturing services, rice imports and cultivation, hydroponics/aquaponics and furniture.

He says Indonesian interest in opportunities associated with the use of the territory’s Head Note 3A (or tax free export to the U.S.), free trade zone, joint ventures, reciprocal trade will all be explored.

Additionally, air transport services between Indonesia and American Samoa  exploring increased transport services, access  to the Asian visitor/tourist markets and the facilitation of trade and investment will all be investigated.

The Indonesian side will provide technical assistance in agriculture and fisheries, tourism development, education, renewable energy and homeland security, particularly in disaster preparedness and resiliency, he said.

Indonesia will host two students from the American Samoa Community College “on under and post graduate scholarships, provide training for our people in the diplomatic service, and arrange for some of our residents to intern at a five star hotel in Bali for training in the hospitality industry,” he said.

Discussions were held in Manado with Chamber of Commerce members and the subject of investment in hotels, the Rainmaker redevelopment, and the yacht marina were all tabled, as they will be the subject of follow up talks, he said.

Additionally, support and technical assistance from the North Sulawesi government was requested with the work that they have carried out for renewable energy using geothermal power plants.

Robinson said a “Tracking Score Card of all the opportunities has been developed” by the local DOC and together with the local Chamber they will be working through the schedule of opportunities to bring as many of them to fruition as possible over the next twelve months.

He also says that all these and other matters will be discussed again during the up coming visit by Djalal in December.

“American Samoa is expanding its economic horizons in response to changing global economic conditions,” he said. “That includes strengthening investment, tourism and trade ties with our Pacific and Asian neighbors with whom we share a great deal in economic opportunities, resources and culture.”

“Our newly established relationship with Indonesia is a significant step in this expansion and it should lead in time to a considerable strengthening of our local economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, he said the Indonesian government has generously agreed to donate a basketball court to be located in an area in Pago to be decided upon by the governor.