Cook Islands Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum Tepaeru Herrmann and Singapore’s Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum Mary Seet-Cheng met virtually late last month to discuss forward co-operation.
The Cook Islands and Singapore established diplomatic relations in August 2012, and over the last decade, co-operation has focused on sharing of development experiences, capacity building for Cook Islanders through the Singapore Cooperation Program (SCP) and multilateral co-operation in international fora including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the World Meteorology Organsiation (WMO).
“Singapore has long epitomised small islands states resilience, innovation, people-centred development and international competitiveness – punching well above its weight on the international stage in political influence and economic clout,” said Secretary Herrmann. “It is a nation the Cook Islands has long admired and within our Foreign Service, looked to emulate aspects of in our own voyage to statehood and aspirations for political and economic sovereignty and influence in matters affecting our people.”
Last month’s discussions were also the first official talks since the admittance of Singapore to the Pacific Islands Forum as a Dialogue Partner in 2021.
“I had a very positive exchange with Ambassador Seet-Cheng and I look forward to working closely with her to progressing some of the initiatives we discussed,” said Secretary Herrmann. “Particularly as relate to in-country and in-region delivery of customised capacity building programs such as transformative leadership; harnessing technology to drive economic growth and further expansion of our bilateral aviation and maritime co-operation programs.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Singapore Co-operation Program which has a global alumni of over 137,000 people, more than 200 of those Cook Islanders who have benefited from professional development sharing and learnings with Singapore.
The two countries signed an Air Services Agreement in 2017 and recently renewed their bilateral Special Aviation Programme which includes face-to-face training opportunities at the Singapore Aviation Academy. Secretary Herrmann and Ambassador Seet-Cheng also discussed flights connectivity and shared interest in improved transport connectivity between Singapore and the Pacific.
“AirCalin earlier this year introduced direct flights between Singapore and New Caledonia – with flights about eight and a half hours long and I understand from Ambassador Seet-Cheng these are tracking well. These are developments of great interest to the Cook Islands as we continue to press for improved flights offerings to and from our major markets,” said Secretary Herrmann.
Further in person talks are planned for the coming months as the Cook Islands looks to the hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in 2023.