The move shifts Samoa west across the International Date Line bringing it into alignment with Australia, New Zealand and East Asia, making it easier to do business with its primary economic partners. The Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, who officially decided the move in June, told journalists ‘In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week, while it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand, and when we’re at church on Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.’ Samoa will now be three hours ahead of eastern Australia rather than 21 hours behind it, and 22 hours ahead of California, instead of two hours behind it.
The dramatic move reflects Samoa’s changing economic interests and indicates the wider transformations in the global economy. This is not the first time Samoa has changed time zones — 119 years earlier Samoa moved the other way in order to aid trade with the USA, which had previously been their dominant trade partner. In the late 19th century the Samoan Islands became increasingly important to America as a refuelling station for commercial and naval ships, eventually leading to the partition of Samoa in 1899 with the Eastern Islands becoming American Samoa. In 1892, Samoa had two days deemed July 4, allowing them to celebrate American Independence Day twice.
There is some irony in the fact that over a hundred years later, this latest change in time zones seems to establish their independence from America. While the trade from California has decreased, the trade with the Australian and Asian economies has grown considerably, with the importance of the Chinese economy set to increase even more in the future. The International Date Line now separates Samoa and American Samoa, which remains aligned with the USA.