American Samoa, Tonga sign deal in Apia

American Samoa and Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Products formalised their US$205,000 deal for Caribbean Pine power poles while in Samoa last week. 

Here as delegates of the 48thPacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, the supply agreement was from a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the government of the Kingdom of Tonga and American Samoa on Principles of Economic Cooperation” dating back 21 April 1986. 

This is according to American Samoa Power Authority Chief Executive Officer, Utu Abe Malae. He said the deal is a two-year supply agreement for 500 30-foot Class 4 and 100 40-foot Class 1 Caribbean Pine power poles with the Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Products Limited.  

“The Caribbean Pines were planted in 1986, the year HM King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV and Governor A.P. Lutali penned a trade memorandum of understanding between Tonga and American Samoa.  

“Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga was Lutali’s Budget Officer at the time. 

“The trees are now fully matured and ready for marketing and American Samoa is buying the power poles from Tonga….how cool is that?”

Furthermore Utu said: “These poles are structurally stronger and denser than several other kinds of wooden poles but linemen can still ascend them using climbing gear as well as ladders or bucket trucks.” 

The contract was endorsed by A.S.P.A. Chairman Fonoti Perelini Perelini, Utu, Managing Director Paul Michael Young; Director Soane Ramamlal and Chief Executive Officer Penisimani Vea for the Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Product Limited. 

Utu said the signed deal is a direct result of an official visit to the Kingdom of Tonga by an American Samoa Government delegation. “The importance of the contract is underscored by the speed the deal was negotiated, reviewed and executed after a thorough due diligence of the products by the American Samoa officials.”

Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga of American Samoa and Caretaker Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pohiva of the Kingdom of Tonga met during the 48thPacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting to fulfill this promise. 

“Both parties hope to build upon the momentum created by this agreement and pursue the trade of other goods and services. 

“Direct flights by Talofa Air between the two destinations began in July 2017 and the American Samoa Shipyard Authority will be performing repairs on a Kingdom of Tonga vessel starting in October 2017. 

“In 1986, the governments of American Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga exchanged lands to facilitate bilateral trade,” said Utu. 

A.S.P.A. is a semi-autonomous unit of the American Samoa Government, which provides power, water, wastewater and solid waste utility services to the Territory.

“We purchased 30- and 40-foot power poles from vendors located in the United State’s Pacific Northwest. 

“The Power Authority’s cost of power poles and shipping is significantly reduced under this contract,” said Utu. 

“Moreover, the Kingdom of Tonga’s close proximity to the Territory permits the Authority to have a ready supply of power poles in the event of a natural disaster. 

“The quality of power poles meets international electric utility industry specifications and requirements.” Regarding Aotearoa-Tonga Forest Products Limited, Utu said it is a management company that manages the ‘Eua Forestry Reserve, and the production and supply of timber products and power poles from this forest estate and other private forest owners, on behalf of the Government of Tonga. 

“The company currently produces construction framing timber products and furniture to the local construction industry in Tonga. 

“It is the sole local producer of lumber and construction timber utilizing local wood stocks, particularly Caribbean Pine. Furthermore, the company is the sole supplier of power and transmission poles to Tonga Power Limited, the state owned enterprise that is responsible for the management of the power utility network in Tonga. According to Utu, the potential for bilateral trade between the Territory of American Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga has been long recognized but largely unrealized. 

The American Samoa Government Director of Commerce Fuiavailili Keniseli Lafaele, American Samoa Shipyard Authority Chief Executive Officer Moefaauo Bill Emmsley and American Samoa Government Tongan Liaison Officer Mafi Sione Lousiale Lotolua Kava also attended the signing ceremony.

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