Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has reassured Australia about Samoa’s commitment to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (P.A.C.E.R) Plus negotiations.
The reassurance was issued on Thursday night when Tuilaepa congratulated the Australian community in Samoa on the occasion of Australia Day.
Australia Day is commemorated on 26 January. It is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788.
But the celebration means much more this year as Samoa and Australia mark 40 years of their bilateral relationship.
The Australian community in Samoa gathered at the residence of High Commissioner, Sue Langford, at Tiapapata to celebrate the occasion.
“Occasions such as this allow us the opportunity to reflect on the areas of cooperation of mutual benefit to our government as well as areas of mutual support at the regional and global level,” Tuilaepa said.
“We have in the past twelve months, received the three Ministerial and one Ambassadorial visit and Australia as the co-chair of the Green Climate Fund strongly advocated and supported the co-hosting of the meeting in Apia.
“One of the key outcomes of the meeting was the approval of Samoa’s proposal which was among the four approved for small island states out of the total of eight proposals considered.”
In the area of trade, Tuilaepa said Samoa continues to work closely with Australia.
“In this emerging anti-trade and anti-globalisation environment, we remain committed to the P.A.C.E.R Plus negotiations and conclusions as soon as possible.
“We are also appreciative of the continuation of Yazaki derogation for Samoa until it closes doors later this year.
“We are also very hopeful that the seasonal workers programme will free up more opportunities for our workers.
“We also welcome the new Australian Investment programme in Samoa under development cooperation. We do however request that Australia continues to promote the use of country systems because therein lies many opportunities for capacity building.”
Tuilaepa added that this is an important year for Samoa and Australia relations. It is the 40th anniversary of the bilateral relationship.
“Our new chancery in Canberra will open its doors in June and that we also look forward to the opening of the new Parliament building in the not too distant future.
When Samoa hosts the Pacific Leaders Forum in September, Tuilaepa said he hopes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would be able to attend.
“Our bilateral relations continue to grow particularly with the emergence of greater institution-institution and person-person linkages.
“We also note the active involvement of Australia in the area of human rights and the role it plays on the Human Rights Council.”
The Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Members of the Council of Deputies were among the guests.
High Commissioner Langford was honoured by their presence.
“On Australian Day, the nation comes together to celebrate what is great about our country and our people,” she said.
“It is a day to reflect on what we have achieved, what we can be proud of and how we can make Australian an even better place for the future.” (read speech in full)