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Samoa - Foreign Relations

The Samoan Government is generally conservative and pro-Western, with a strong interest in regional political and economic issues. At independence in 1962, Samoa signed a Treaty of Friendship with New Zealand. This treaty confirms the special relationship between the two countries and provides a framework for their interaction. Under the terms of the treaty, Samoa can request that New Zealand act as a channel of communication to governments and international organizations outside the immediate area of the Pacific islands. Samoa also can request defense assistance, which New Zealand is required to consider (Samoa does not maintain a formal military). Overall Samoa has strong links with New Zealand, where many Samoans now live and many others were educated.

The Government of Samoa has a strong relationship with the Government of the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). The P.R.C. has provided substantial assistance to Samoa. Assistance from the P.R.C. has been especially focused on construction projects, including the main government building as well as performance venues for the South Pacific Games, which Samoa hosted in August-September 2007. The P.R.C.-funded parliamentary offices opened in August 2008, and the Justice building opened in January 2010. The two countries also signed concessionary loans of $64 million in 2008 and $30.5 million in January 2010 for the construction of a multi-storey office and conference center and a national hospital, respectively.

Samoa participated in a first round of negotiations with its Pacific Island neighbors for a regional trade agreement in August 2000. Samoa is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations and a strong advocate of the Pacific Commission and Pacific Islands Forum.

The Samoan Government was an outspoken critic of the French decision to resume nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific in 1995. After years of banning French naval and airforce vessels from entering Apia, relations have eased with frequent French naval visits to the country.

As a player in the Pacific region, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa was a very vocal critic of the 2007 coup in the Republic of the Fiji Islands and of the interim military government of Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. When the Fiji interim government failed to hold general elections in May 2009, Samoas leader was at the forefront of Pacific leaders to come out against the position and legitimacy of the military government.

Since 1967, the United States has supported a substantial Peace Corps program in Samoa. Over 1,900 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Samoa over that time, with more than 40 Volunteers currently in-country. Peace Corps programs have emphasized village-based development and capacity building, but most recently have moved back to the traditional primary English education. Other forms of U.S. assistance to Samoa are limited.

High points in the bilateral relationship in recent years include July 2008, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Samoa and met with Prime Minister Tuilaepa as well as her counterparts from other Pacific Island nations; the July 2009 Pacific Partnership humanitarian project that involved U.S. military engineering and medical outreach, and the many positive results and interactions it engendered; and the support provided by the U.S. Government, organizations, and individuals in the aftermath of the September 2009 earthquake and tsunami. The July 2008 visit was the second time a Secretary of State had visited in 20 years; George Shultz visited in 1987.

The U.S. Embassy, staffed by a single American officer, is the smallest embassy in Samoa (although a few countries have honorary consuls) and one of the few one-officer U.S. embassies in the world.

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