Washington, D.C (July 30, 2010) – Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo introduced a bill that would make technical corrections to the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program. The bill, introduced on July 30, would also require the Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce to compute the gross domestic product reports for Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Freely Associated States.
Congressman Henry Brown of South Carolina, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife signed on as original co-sponsor.
Additionally, Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Congressman Jose Serrano of New York, Congressman Al Green of Texas, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Congressman Mike Honda of California supported this bill as original co-sponsors.
The first section of this bill would direct the Bureau of Economic Analysis to publish annual reports on the gross domestic product for Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Freely Associated States.
In March 2009, the BEA and the Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior assisted the U.S. territories in developing and producing annual GDP statistics for their respective jurisdictions. The Office of Insular Areas financed this project under its discretionary budget at $1.6 million over a period of 18 months (March 2009-September 2010).
The results were unveiled this year, and the bill introduced today would direct BEA to permanently continue its efforts in estimating the GDP for these jurisdictions as part of its existing program and resources.
The second section of this bill would amend the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, Public Law 110-229, to require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to provide for an alternative procedure to permanently include economically-beneficial countries in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.
This decision will be left to the discretion of the Secretary of DHS, but is meant to fulfill the Congressional intent of Public Law 110-229 to expand tourism and economic development on Guam and the CNMI.
“It is important that the Congressional intent of Public Law 110-229 be adhered to once the final rule on the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program is released,” said Rep. Bordallo. “This bill would direct the Secretary of DHS to, under her discretion, provide for an alternative procedure to ensure that economically-beneficial countries such as China and Russia are included in the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program.
“This bill would also require the Bureau of Economic Analysis to provide annual reports on the gross domestic product of Guam, the U.S. territories, and the Freely Associated States,” she added. “Last year was the first time that Guam received federal assistance in compiling GDP data, and this bill would ensure that Guam will continue to benefit from the availability of this important economic data.”