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Tuilaepa: Economic integration not a new idea

Economic integration and cooperation between Samoa and American Samoa has been going on for a long time according to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

He explained that whatever would improve the economy of the two Samoas would be pursued if there were no laws barring it and it has worked well as time has progressed.

The prime minister was responding to a question referring to the recent trip by two officials sent by the Samoa government to American Samoa, to identify the most suitable form of formal bilateral economic integration to enhance trade and investment opportunities between the two Samoas, in his weekly radio program 2AP Ma Le Palemia on Thursday.

One of the officials who went on the fact-finding mission, Aida Savea of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told Radio New Zealand International that they had wanted to confirm whether American Samoa can enter into a bilateral economic arrangement without the involvement of Washington.

She said that what businesses in both Samoa and American Samoa want is transparency and certainty through some sort of economic agreement.

Tuilaepa reiterated that the two Samoas have worked together over the years and have discussed the issue often in the Inter Samoa Talks. He said the two Samoas have helped each other in areas where there were no legal restrictions set by the federal authorities in Washington and each has benefited from the cooperation.

However, Tuilaepa said that there have been instances where assistance was sought but unfortunately, nothing could be done because of international legal restrictions which existed.

For example, he said that he still remembers the year when then Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia called requesting if they could bring over the inmates at the Tafuna Correctional Facility to be housed at the Tafaigata prison, while work was carried out to rebuild part of TCF which had been destroyed by fire.

“They had put all the inmates in open shelters inside the TCF compound near the road,” Tuilaepa recalled. “What happened was, some of them would take leisurely showers naked in the late afternoon when traffic was busy to make fun of the authorities. Of course they knew what should be done, but jailbirds will be jailbirds.”

The prime minister said that he had wanted to help, but he could not do anything because under the constitution of Samoa at the time, anybody who commits a crime in a place outside of Samoa, once he enters the country, he is a free man.

However, he said that the law has been amended to solve this problem and that anyone who commits a crime outside of Samoa will answer to the law if found in Samoa.

The prime minister concluded that a lot more work needs to be done by both Samoas with regard to a formal bilateral economic arrangement and legal improvisations with Washington’s approval may be needed to achieve this.