22 Apr 2024

American Samoa says Pacific Islands Forum membership still on the table

8:38 am on 22 April 2024
American Samoa's Lieutenant governor Talauega Eleasalo Ale.

American Samoa's Lieutenant governor Talauega Eleasalo Ale. Photo: Fili Sagapolutele

The American Samoa Government has rubbished reports about the US shooting down its hopes of becoming a member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

In a statement, the government said its efforts to seek associate membership status in the Pacific Islands Forum are not being opposed by the US Department of State.

Lieutenant governor La'apui Talauega Ale said they were contacted by officials after an article about the US position was published by a Guam news outlet.

"We received an email from State Department officials shortly after this article was published," he said.

"They noted that the article suggested the State Department is not supportive of our PIF efforts and then told us that this is simply not true.

"We have been engaged with the US State Department on an ongoing basis as American Samoa navigates its way through this application process."

The State Department email also said: "The journalist is referencing an outdated policy document that predates the US government's decision to support the territories' status as observers in the PIF, and is thus not entirely consistent with our current policy position".

Guam filed its membership application in 2022 but its bid was opposed by the federal government.

Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas currently hold an observer status granted by the Forum in 2011 upon the Department of State's request.

The statement noted that since receiving that letter, the Governor's Office has held multiple virtual and in-person meetings with State Department officials, including a meeting in Washington, DC while there for the Interagency Group on Insular Areas meeting and the winter meeting of the National Governors' Association.

These meetings all looked at the growing support for American Samoa's application efforts.

"While there are still a few details to work out with the State Department, this email reassures us that their support of American Samoa's participation in PIF as an associate member has not been withdrawn as this erroneous article suggests," La'apui siad.

"Ultimately, our membership status is up to the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum."

Meanwhile, the incoming head of the Pacific region's main political body is yet to sign his contract, almost six months after the 2023 PIF Leaders meeting in Rarotonga.

Former Nauru president Baron Waqa, who is to take on the high-level diplomatic post, has been heavily criticised for his treatment of refugees, and other issues.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs