Samoa and American Samoa are looking at setting up a Free Trade Agreement.
Although the details are still being ironed out between the two countries, the issue was one of the topics discussed during the inter island talks held in Apia at the beginning of the week.
The two Samoa’s Committee on Economic Integration Trade and Investment is looking at how to advance the outcomes of the latest meeting.
The meeting was co-Chaired by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour, Peseta Margaret Malua and the Director of the Department of Commerce in American Samoa, Fuiavailili Keniseli Lafaele.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Fuiava said the meeting was very positive for both countries.
“We will be interacting throughout the two months on the results of this meeting and we will use that to put together an agreement, then we will present to the two governments before we inform the media and the public,” he said.
According to Fuiava, the possible Free Trade Agreement does not mean that every trade transaction and activity between the two countries will be free of charge.
“Right now we are looking at all the areas and possibilities that will allow the two countries to trade freely and easily,” he said.
“It would also be a trade that will not only cater for the needs of our countries but will also spur more industries and investments.
“For example, the raw materials can be sourced by Samoa and we can add value to such materials and export the final materials to the U.S markets.
“And that’s why we couldn’t come up with the agreement in this meeting. The meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss and share our ideas on how we can improve in terms of economic integration. And the results of this meeting will help us put together this agreement.”
Fuiavailili said it will take them approximately two months to put together the agreement.
Speaking on the outcomes of the meeting, Fuiavailili described the 8th meeting as fact filled and fruitful. He said trade was the first item on the agenda of the meeting.
“There were a lot of discussions on trade in terms of goods and services between the two Samoa’s.”
According to Fuiavailili, the two Samoa’s have traded and conducted businesses for many years now, yet they have not effectively improved in terms of economic arrangements to facilitate our businesses.
“We’ve touched on ways that can allow the free flow of goods and services between the two countries. And after the discussions we are looking at dropping down the costs of duties on both sides so that we are able to facilitate more trade between the two countries. And like the Minister said yesterday (Monday), there is no more time for talk; it is time for us to make it happen.”
Travelling between the two countries was one of the areas that they focused on during the meeting, said Fuiavailili.
“We want everything to be easy and we had a very fruitful discussion on this particular area,” he said.
“This issue has been a concern for many years. And discussing and sharing our ideas on how we can improve, can help us address this issue. Because the two countries share the same objective of facilitating trade and investment and creating opportunities for our countries.”
However, Fuiavailili said the main concern is that American Samoa is still part of the United States.
“Us being a part of the U.S means that there are certain rules and regulations in terms of immigration. However, we also control our own customs and immigrations to the extent that we can make things easier for our people to travel from Samoa to American Samoa and vice versa.”
Employment opportunity is one of the main issues that was discussed during the meeting, said Fuiavailili.
Fuiavailili said that there is a need for man power in American Samoa. He said that 80 percent of the work forces in American Samoa are citizens of Samoa.
“So there is no doubt that there is man power available here in Samoa,” he said.
“But there is a greater need for man power in American Samoa for we are developing in the telecommunication areas. And in an event where we will be looking for skilled workers or experts in this area, the nearest place where we can look to provide such man power is Samoa.
“The development in I.C.T means that we are developing our knowledge based industry or internet and we will need more educated people for this and Samoa is definitely the place to look for workers.”
Speaking of technology and internet, Fuiavailili said that they have their eyes on the Samoa Submarine Cable with a lot of interest.
“This will significantly support us and our efforts to invite telecommunication based industry to the territory. We will require skilled people, and if American Samoa cannot provide the labor force then we will have to ask Samoa to help us.”
All in all, Fuiavailili strongly believes that both countries will significantly benefit if we put the outcomes of the discussions into actions.
“Communication makes the world go round,” he said. “And we’re more than just communicating.
“In these meeting we get to discuss and look at ways in which we can help improve our business and economic development for the benefit of all our people.
“We cannot expect sustained opportunities at the international level when the opportunities between our own two countries have yet to be fully realized.”