The relationship between China and Samoa continues to grow from strength to strength.
And with the signing of an Air Service Agreement (A.S.A) between the two nations yesterday for direct flights between Beijing and Faleolo, the relationship is bound to become stronger.
The agreement was signed by the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang and the Ambassador of China to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng at the T.A.T.T.E Building.
The deal opens the door for any carrier interested in servicing the route. But it’s not just China that the government is looking to. Singapore is also on the list.
Minister Papali’i said there are airlines that have showed interest in servicing the route but the A.S.A had to be signed first.
“There are companies who have showed interest to come to Samoa, not only from China but also other investors who are in partnerships with people in China,” he said.
“And now that we have signed the agreement, we are now open for market to whoever is interested. The market is now open. If Chinese airlines want to start coming in now then we are now opening it up for them.”
During the signing, Papali’itele thanked China for their contribution in achieving this milestone.
“It is with great honor that I extend the government of Samoa’s appreciation and gratitude to the government of the People’s Republic of China for this milestone achievement,” said Papali’itele.
“The Air Service Agreement (A.S.A) signifies yet another bond between our two nations in terms of further expanding Samoa’s development aviation activities.”
He added that the endorsement of the A.S.A would have a domino effect on Samoa.
“Not only in aviation but also tourism,” said Papali’itele. “This will increase the number of tourists and also in terms of trades not only between China but also with other countries.
“This is also in good timing as well. The rebuilding of our international airport is progressing really well, we need to have more airplanes to come to Samoa once our international airport is opened.”
Ambassador Wang congratulated the government of Samoa and all the Ministries for their contribution towards the completion of the agreement.
“Today is a very important day,” said Mr. Wang.
“Samoa has a long history and rich culture, good environment. It is a paradise; it’s the heart of Polynesian culture and the heaven of tourism.
“So after signing the A.S.A, I am sure, more and more Chinese tourists can come to Samoa for travel.
“It will also help increase the development of trade, tourism and people to people exchange.”
The A.S.A with China is formalised at a time when the government is reviewing the future of the joint venture between Virgin Australia and Samoa.
While Papali’itele was coy about the state of the review, he indicated that the government continues to weigh its options.
“There are some problems with the joint venture that we have now with Virgin Australia,” he said. “We’ve noticed that a lot of benefits are not coming straight to us. So that’s why our government is now looking at finding our own airline.
“We now have a committee working on finding us a new airline to carry our flag. There is a great need to have our own airline. The main problem we now have with our joint venture is the money coming in. That’s why we are now looking at getting our own airline.”
As for the future, Papali’i confirmed that Singapore is also on the radar.
“We will sign a similar agreement with Singapore. They’ve already agreed as well to have flights from Singapore to Samoa but we are also waiting for the agreement to be signed probably next week.”
The following is the press release issued for the event:
“The government of the Independent State of Samoa has concluded an Air Service Agreement with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the 24 October 2016. The conclusion of this Air Service Agreement (A.S.A) reflects the warm bilateral ties between Samoa and China.
Under the Air Services Agreement, the designated airlines of Samoa and China will be able to fly between the two States, as well as via or beyond to any third country. There are no restrictions on capacity, frequency and aircraft type. This agreement will not only create better connectivity between the two States but will also have the added benefit of increasing trade and tourism. In the foreseeable future, this should create more opportunities for our local entrepreneurs and tourist service operators.
The agreement also reaffirms the Samoa International Air Services Agreement Policy which states that the Government of Samoa promotes Open Skies Air Services Agreements.”