The national ‘Aid for Trade’ workshop was co-ordinated by the Ministry of Forgein Affaris and Immigration to help the government achieve its objectives in the area, said secretary Jim Gosselin.
“One of the fundamental objectives for government is to promote economic growth. One way they can do that is through trade agreements.
“We have to open up opportunities for our private sector to export their goods and possibly services.”
He said the Cook Islands’ private sector is small and will therefore need assistance to trade internationally.
Team leader for Matrix Consultants, Dr Claudius Preville, headed the workshop of around 30 participants, and said the aim is to improve trade with other markets in a way that benefits the Cook Islands.
“The main objective of this agreement is to enable Pacific states to benefit from improved market access, and also promote sustainable development. It’s not about opening up markets at the expense of your own market being diminishes. We have to see where the weaknesses are to prepare yourselves to trade effectively,” he said.
“If trade agreements work effectively, poverty should be reduced and eventually be eradicated.”
The workshop aims to work towards a draft proposal for each area of trade, such as pearls or agriculture, which outlines what assistance is required.
“They might need technical assistance, equipment, or trade promotion – we want to get their ideas about what they’d like to do and what they’d like to receive.” said Gosselin. “It’s not just about helping them meet the standards, but about market advice.”
The proposals from each area will be combined into an overall ‘regional proposal’ for how to improve trade.
Gosselin said international parties are interested in trading with the Cook Islands.
“In China they always say they’re looking at increasing exports from the Cook Islands to China, and the same with the European Union. They’re interested in opening up their markets.”
The Cook Islands is currently working with other Pacific Island nations to negotiate trade and economic agreements with Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union.