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China and Pacific Islands Countries commit to economic development and co-operation

China and the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) including the Cook Islands have committed to deepen economic development and co-operation at the 3rd China-Pacific Island Countries Economic and Development Cooperation Forum held in Apia earlier this week.

The Forum, jointly hosted by Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and China’s Vice Premier Hu Chunhua was attended by PIC and China government leaders, representatives from the business community and regional organisations.

During the opening Forum, Vice Premier Hu and PIC Heads of Delegation spoke to the theme of “Openness and Cooperation, Sharing and Development”.

Speaking at the opening on behalf of the Cook Islands, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown acknowledged with appreciation China’s contributions to the economic transformation of the Cook Islands over the last twenty years, “While the people of the Cook Islands can rightly take most of the credit for the economic transformation of our country over the last 20 years, the contributions of development partners, including China have been invaluable, particularly in the aftermath of government bankruptcy in the mid 1990’s. The grants and concessional loan facilities availed by China to the Cook Islands over the last 20 years has seen the completion of multiple pivotal public infrastructure. And whilst our co-operation in public infrastructure has had its challenges, our joint willingness to be innovative in approach, and tailor development finance to the Cook Islands context has enabled outcomes focused development and an increasing use of Cook Islands contractors in public infrastructure development by China and other key development partners”. Over the last 20 years, Chinese grants and concessional loan funding has seen the completion of key public infrastructure including the courthouse, police headquarters, and indoor multi-sports complex, the Ministry of Education, Apii Nikao and Phase One of Te Mato Vai.

In an earlier bilateral meeting Vice Premier Hu and Deputy Prime Minister Brown highlighted shortcomings in the current global development finance frameworks and modalities as grossly inadequate to support critical adaptation needs. He sought the support of China to work collectively with the Cook Islands and the Pacific to recalibrate the global development finance architecture to keep pace with the rapidly warming climate, making specific mention of current challenges to securing insurance cover against the impacts of climate change in the Cook Islands. Other topics discussed during the bilateral meeting included securing improved access for Cook Islands noni, pearls and fish into the Chinese market and drawing on China’s agricultural research, development and technologies to support growth in Cook Islands agricultural productivity and co-operation to secure improved returns in agricultural development in the Cook Islands.

A significant outcome of the Forum was the signing of the "China-Pacific Island Countries Programme of Action on Economic Development and Cooperation" which articulates future co-operation between China and PICs in areas including intergovernmental co-operation, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism and transport. The Programme of Action can be viewed on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management website at http://www.mfem.gov.ck/…/China-Pacific_Islands_Countries_Pr…

Reflecting back to the 1st China-Pacific Islands Countries Summit Forum convened in Nadi in 2006, Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann commented “China’s increased engagement with the Cook Islands and our Pacific region has drawn interest and elevated levels of engagement with the region by other development partners thereby availing to our governments and business entities new opportunities in trade, tourism, diplomacy, development co-operation and investment. The experience garnered in 20 years dealing with China, has strengthened our capabilities as relate to diplomacy and international engagement, development co-operation and project implementation with all development Partners and present growth opportunities in trade, tourism and investment into the future.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) will convene a Post Forum briefing for domestic stakeholders before the end of November, notice will be posted on the MFAI facebook page in the coming weeks at https://www.facebook.com/mfaicookislands/

The two Governments are expected to continue discussions at the end of the week, during the visit to Rarotonga of China’s Ambassador to the Cook Islands Wu Xi.



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