It's generally recognised that development and trade are woven together. The Centre for Global Developement states that ''trade provides important opportunities for developing countries to attract investment, create jobs, and reduce poverty.''
The Cook Islands is no exception, transforming from an agricutural based export economy of the 1960's and 1970's to todays tourism led economy can be seen as a shift from trade in goods to trade in services. With growth has come challenges such as inequality, urban drift (outer island populations moving to Rarotonga's, New Zealand and Australia's economic centres for work) and over-reliance on a few sectors. Today's questions include:
- Can small countries like the Cook Islands meaningfully participate in regional trade agreements? and;
- How can locally relevant issues like increased trade with close neighbours such as Tahiti be achieved?
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosts a trade advisor who coordinates Cook Islands participation in regional trade negotiations and works closely with the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor. Costs of many of these activities are supported by donors from trading partners such as New Zealand, Australia and the European Union.
The Cook Islands is in a somewhat different position to most other Pacific Forum Island Countries in that we already enjoy free access to Australia and New Zealand. Cook Islands narrow range of exported goods enjoys reasonably free access to these markets under an existing trade agreement (SPARTECA). The challenge is to negotiate additional benefits from trade negotiations (PACER+ with NZ and Australia and EPA with Europe) and to support the development of other Pacific countries. Fisheries development and the demand for skilled labour are areas the Cook Islands seeks to address through new agreements.
The Cook Islands is engaged in work to develop a Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy and seeks to increase national and regional awareness around important trade opportunties, negotiations and shape the development of policy frameworks.
- Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy Submission to NSDC
- Report: National Consultations on the Pacific Aid for trade matrix and & strategy, March 18-22, 2013
Examples of aid for trade proposals being promoted:
- Strengthening capacity of SPS control in the Cook Islands-Phase 1 (upgrading of the CI Microbiology Laboratory)
- Strengthening capacity of SPS control in the Cook Islands-Phase 2 (accreditation of Competent Laboratory)
- Development of traditional handicraft activities and improving the profile of women handicraft producers in the Cook Islands
Plans are underway to formulate a comprehensive National Trade Policy Framework (TPF). Further information can be found in the following documents: