Flag of American Samoa

American Samoa country brief

Overview

American Samoa is located approximately halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and comprises five islands and two atolls. The capital, Pago Pago, is located on the main island of Tutuila. The population of American Samoa is 55,000.

Political overview

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States and follows the US State model of government, with an elected Governor, Lieutenant-Governor and legislature. Until 1977, when American Samoans began electing their own Executive, the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor were appointed by the US Secretary of the Interior.

The President of the United States is American Samoa's Head of State. The Head of Government is Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga. He has held the post since 3 January 2013.

System of Government

The American Samoa Fono, or Legislative Assembly, consists of a Senate of 18 members and a House of Representatives of 21 members. The Senators are matais or chiefs chosen by 12 county councils in accordance with Samoan custom and serve four years. Twenty of the 21 Representatives are elected by universal suffrage to represent 17 districts for two-year terms. The remaining representative is an appointed, non-voting delegate from Swains Island.

American Samoa has an elected delegate to the US Congress. The delegate is a member of the US House of Representatives but does not have voting rights. Incumbent Democrat, Faleomavega Eni Hunkin, has held that position since 1989.

Residents of American Samoa are not US citizens, but US nationals who can freely enter the US to work and reside. American Samoa has its own immigration laws, and entry into American Samoa by foreigners does not constitute entry into the US (in contrast to the US Pacific territory of Guam, where US immigration laws apply).

Bilateral relations

Australia enjoys friendly relations with American Samoa based on shared membership of Pacific regional organisations. Australia does not have an aid program with American Samoa because it is a US territory.

Australia has no resident representation in American Samoa. The Australian High Commission in Samoa is responsible for the conduct of consular and diplomatic business with American Samoa.

Economic overview

American Samoa has a traditional Polynesian economy in which more than 90 per cent of the land is communally owned. Economic activity is strongly linked to the United States, with which American Samoa conducts most of its commerce. US Government funding constitutes approximately two-thirds of government revenue.

Tuna processing plants largely supplied by foreign fishing vessels are the backbone of the private sector, with canned tuna the primary export. In 2009-10, the tuna canning industry contracted substantially, as one of its two factories (Chicken of the Sea) closed its doors. Attempts by the government to develop a larger and broader economy are constrained by American Samoa's remote location and limited transportation links.

Trade and Investment

Australian merchandise exports to American Samoa in 2012 totalled $7.7 million (principally milk and cream). Australian imports from American Samoa in the same period totalled $13 million (principally animal feed, animal oils and fats).

High level visits

December 2010: Then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, the Hon. Richard Marles, visited American Samoa.