The deal was signed by Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi and Cooks prime minister Henry Puna, who paid tribute to the 200-plus Indonesian workers contributing to the economy.
Indonesian workers Danny Fitria and Sasmito of Manea Foods welcomed the deal.
Fitria said this opened the doors to more of their friends and families who are well skilled in the labour force to come and work in the Cook Islands.
“We like working here, it’s a friendly environment but internet is expensive,” laughed Fitra, who has been here five months.
Sasmito, who has been here 10 months, said it was good to hear Puna acknowledge their hard work.
Puna said he saw scope for more one-on-one co-operation with Indonesia, including bringing in tourism and agricultural workers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there were more than 200 Indonesian nationals working in the Cook in the hospitality, agriculture and in-home care sectors.
“Early next year we’ll be graduating to a Developed Country Status, so we’re looking to make new friends, and in a sense expand our circles of friends, because we have to think about new ways of doing business,” Puna told RNZ.
Indonesians contributed significantly to the country’s hospitality sector.
“You know currently we have about a hundred Indonesians working in the Cook Islands, in Rarotonga. And, from the reports that I have from their employers, they are the best workers they’ve ever come across... and so there’s plenty of scope.”
Marsudi said Indonesia was connecting the dots between the 17,000 Indonesian islands and the thousands of Pacific islands, and one of the steps was to open diplomatic relationships with Cook Islands and Niue – the only Pacific countries previously absent from their diplomatic roster.
Puna signed the deal in Auckland, at an Indonesian trade expo. Indonesia’s ambassador to New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, Tantowi Yahya said the expo was a way for Indonesia to build up links with the people in the Pacific.