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Two Samoas meet behind closed doors to hammer out trade agreement

The two-day meeting of the Two Samoa’s Economic Integration Initiative kicked off Wednesday with the goal of establishing a trade agreement.


In his opening remarks, Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Lauodo Pierre stated that with the economic integration initiative or the trade talks, they are hopeful and encouraged that this initiative will help improve the economic development in both Samoas.


“I have no doubt that the two economies can benefit from each other as we work together to devise ways to facilitate and help our private sectors develop and grow,” the Prime Minister said in his written remarks.


The Deputy PM said that, to his understanding, this forum will allow the private sector to raise issues and challenges which are faced when trading with their counterparts. “For government representatives it is important that we understand the issues identified and work towards creating policies that are conducive to providing an enabling environment for business to thrive within our economies.”


He further pointed out the fact that American Samoa and Samoa are close in proximity, and share the same language and culture. These are factors that could only contribute to the success of this initiative, he noted.


“We could consider ways of pooling resources to strengthen certain sectors of interest, we could identify and combine initiatives to benefit from trade liberalization while at the same time mitigating any negative impacts that may arise. Our growing services industry presents a great opportunity for our economies to provide key services that would yield returns on investment that would benefit our people.”


Fonotoe said the periodic trade exhibitions will inspire creativity and innovation of locally made products that could either be exported or serve as import substitutes. “In essence it is vital that we provide an environment that would facilitate trade and investment opportunities for business,” he said.


He also pointed out that a draft ‘terms of reference’ for the initiative has been circulated to the core members of the task force, and asked them to consider carefully the scope and objectives to ensure the focus is not diluted by peripheral issues.


Fonotoe was accompanied by 13 delegates from Samoa, including government officials from Samoa's Ministry of Commerce and Labor, members of Samoa’s Chamber of Commerce, Members of various boards like the Samoa Business Enterprise Center, Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters and a member of the Counsel General.


The two-day meeting — which was conducted behind closed doors — was held at the Tradewinds Hotel, Naumati conference room.


According to the program for this meeting, there would be snapshots of the trade environment of the Two Samoas, issues of constraints with regards to exports and imports of both Samoas, and preventatives on current investment guidelines and possible areas of investment for both countries.


Also scheduled was a discussion of the investment environment, the status of the Ulu Research and Development project and a visit by delegates to the exchanged land in Tafuna.


The program states that there will be terms of reference drafted for this meeting, where the members will identify the authorities and requirements to establish a trade agreement. They will also identify means in which to enact such an agreement.


Focus is on ease of implementation; identify improvements to the immigration, customs, taxes, business creation and foreign investment rules of both counties that would benefit economic integration; develop protocols for export development that could consider point of origin laws and opportunities; identify business opportunities between the two private sectors including trade expositions; and move forward on issues relating to the land swap and issues relating to the Exclusive Economic Zone.


American Samoa’s delegation included Tuaolo Manaia Fruean, DHR Director Sonny Thompson, Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop, Chamber of Commerce president Lewis Wolman, and others from the private sector.


Director of Commerce Keniseli Lafaele, who hosted the event, did not wish to comment until after the final meeting on Thursday, which was conducted behind closed doors, and the media was not allowed to be present.