Pacific News Minute: American Samoa Reconsiders US Ties

Nov 18, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

The Governor of American Samoa is asking the Interior Department for money to explore a review of the territory's political status. The biggest employer - the Starkist Tuna cannery says a minimum wage hike and federal restrictions on fishing could force the company to relocate.  A frustrated local government says those policies are outside its control.  We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Last month - the National Marine Fisheries Service rejected a petition to exempt American Samoa from restrictions intended to conserve dwindling populations of tuna.  At just about the same time, a minimum wage hike of forty cents an hour took effect.  In a statement to an industry website called Undercurrent News - Starkist said American Samoa used to have three factors in its favor: duty free access to the US market, a wage system reflective of the local, not the mainland economy, and a reliable supply of direct delivered fish.  "All those factors have been negatively impacted in the last six months," the company said, and noted that the pending Trans Pacific Partnership would increase competition from countries like Vietnam.

Starkist - owned by a South Korean conglomerate Dongwon Industries may relocate to Ecuador or Senegal.  Starkist and TriMarine, the other cannery - are by far the territory's largest employers.  This week Governor Lolo Moliga called a meeting with the local legislature: the Fono, which decided to take the first steps toward a constitutional review, which could eventually lead to greater autonomy, or even independence.  American Samoa has been an unincorporated territory of the United States since the turn of the twentieth century.  It's on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories - changes proposed by the last constitutional review were defeated by voters in 2010.