8 Aug 2023

Lemanu would push US interests in Pacific if Forum membership awarded

11:23 am on 8 August 2023
American Samoa's Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga at the Pago Pago launch of Talofa Airways

American Samoa's Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga at the Pago Pago launch of Talofa Airways Photo: RNZI/Monica Miller

American Samoa's governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga pressing Washington to help it gain full membership of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Lemanu is promising to advocate for US interests if the territory gains membership to the Forum.

American Samoa currently only has observer status within the Forum.

Talanei.com reports that Lemanu has written to the Assistant Secretary of State - Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, to say that American Samoa's position within the organisation should be upgraded.

"It is time for American Samoa to have a seat at the Pacific Island Forum table and an active role in the discussions that affect our lives and the world around us," Talanei reports him as saying.

American Samoa's status means it cannot actively participate in the forum's meetings and decisions, despite its shared historic, cultural ties, and common challenges with its Pacific neighbours.

"As the sole US Territory in the South Pacific, American Samoa holds valuable experience and relationships with neighbouring island nations.

"Our participation as a vital PIF member would not only serve the interests of our people but contribute significantly to the advancement of the entire region," Lemanu added.

"Furthermore, considering the absence of a US vote in the PIF, American Samoa can play a pivotal role by advocating for US interests in the forum, particularly in light of growing influences in the Pacific, including from China."

The Governor said France and New Zealand permit their Pacific territories to be full PIF members.

In a recent virtual meeting with members of the US State Department, Lemanu said he looks forward to collaborating with US envoy to the PIF, Frankie Reed, to bring about American Samoa's desire to be a full member of the Forum.