Cook Islands participate in first U.S. - Pacific Island Country Trade and Investment Dialogue

Cook Islands participate in first U.S. - Pacific Island Country Trade and Investment Dialogue
Photo: MFAI Foreign Service Officer Ria Arthur (left) with Secretary of the Ministry of Marine Resources Pamela Maru (middle) and Acting Director of the International and Trade Division Mackenzi Wichman (right).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in collaboration with the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR), and the Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB) have engaged in the first-ever U.S. – Pacific Island Country (PIC) Trade and Investment Dialogue in which Pacific Island countries highlighted their trade, investment, and fisheries priorities both regionally and individually.

The dialogue was an outcome of the U.S. Pacific Island Country Summit held in Washington in September 2022 and attended by Cook Islands Prime Minister, the Hon. Mark Brown, alongside other Pacific Island nation leaders.

“The Cook Islands has always been interested in greater direct engagement with the U.S., and the face-to-face engagement opportunities afford the Cook Islands, PICs, and the United States the chance to strengthen relations and grow trade and investment,” said Acting Director of the International and Trade Division, Mackenzi Wichman.

“We are grateful for the chance to discuss our priorities for future trade, investment, and fisheries relations with the U.S., and we see this relationship as strengthening our ability to work with the U.S. and the region to promote economic growth, facilitate the flow of goods and services, raise living standards, diversify our economies, and foster innovation.”

The U.S. – Pacific Island Country Trade and Investment Dialogue, held virtually over one day, covered various topics, including aid-for-trade; private sector development; investment; utilisation of the Generalised System of Preferences; a special trade and investment arrangement; and the rules-based multilateral trading order.

Through this dialogue and continued regular exchanges with the U.S., it is envisaged that there will be improved access to markets and allow the Cook Islands to benefit from the services of the United States, allowing for increased trade and investment.

In addition, the dialogue will also help the Cook Islands to diversify its economy, providing a boost to different sectors, including but not limited to tourism, fisheries, and our ocean resources. It will also provide improved access to technology and knowledge.

“In collaboration with MMR, BTIB and our business community, we look forward to working more closely with the U.S. to identify opportunities for product development, value-adding, and U.S. market access for boutique fisheries such as ours with relatively low volume production," said Wichman.

"Such discussions should draw out what business opportunities are available to us and the impediments we need to overcome to increase trade in fishery products."

The dialogue comes at a particularly opportune time with the recent announcement of the extension of the U.S. Multilateral Fisheries Agreement between the U.S. and PIC, including the Cook Islands, and the resumption of Rarotonga to Honolulu direct flights from May 2023.