American Samoa’s hopes of becoming a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum have been dealt a major blow.
In Apia for the Forum Meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Matt J. Matthews, said the possibility of it happening is very slim.
He said the legal opinion and a long standing policy by the United States Department of State prohibits U.S territories from becoming members of an international organization.
Prior to this week, American Samoa Government Chief of Staff, Fiu Johnny Saleua, told the Samoa Observer they want to become a full member of the Forum. He said they would be asking the U.S. Department of State and was confident their request to Washington D.C. would be granted.
He said the proposal was prepared by the Governor’s Legal Counsel, Alema Leota and Attorney General Taleuega Eleasalo Ale.
Heading the delegation at the P.I.F.s, Fiu told the Samoa Observer that once they return to American Samoa, they will finalise the lengthy proposal and with the approval by Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, it will then be sent off for approval.
But based on Mr. Matthews statement, it may not be as simple as that.
“The general legal opinion of the treaties and law department of the Department of State for territories of the United States for which the U.S. provides security and foreign policies is that they cannot be full members of International Organization. They are in fact territories of the United States and so they will probably continue on as observers.”
In response to the Samoa Observer questions, Mr. Leota said that if their proposal is denied, that is something they have to work on.
“I know there are different channels,” he said.
“We have a lot of issues that we can control ourselves like immigration, taxes, trade goods with other countries.
“There are areas which we have authority alone. In this case, we need to speak and work with State Department and they have been a great partner and they have been helping us with these big conferences.”