The funding comes under an economic and technical cooperation agreement (ETCA) signed by the two governments with their diplomatic envoys in Wellington, a press release from the Foreign Affairs and Immigration ministry said yesterday.
The release revealed the Cook Islands had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI).
Under the Cook Islands/China Belt and Road Initiative MOU, the two governments have agreed to promote between themselves policy coordination, “facilities connectivity”, trade, financial co-operation and “people-to-people” relations.
Prime minister Henry Puna met with his Chinese counterpart president Xi Jinping in Port Moresby last week in the margins of the APEC Leaders’ Summit, the release said.
“In addition to the bilateral engagement, a roundtable between president Xi and Pacific Islands leaders was also held.
“This year marks 21 years diplomatic relations between the Cook Islands and China and during the meeting in Port Moresby, the two leaders pledged to strengthen cooperation including through expanded economic co-operation and deepening cultural and people-to-people relations.
“It was a very warm and constructive exchange in keeping with what I’ve become accustomed to in high level exchanges with representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China,” said Puna.
“Our relationship with China over the last 20 years has been fruitful with notable contributions by China to significant public infrastructure facilities in the Cook Islands and China’s support towards expansion of the Cook Islands international engagement,” said Puna.
“The BRI MOU provides an elevated platform upon which we can focus future bilateral and multilateral cooperation.”
More than 60 countries have signed the BRI with China over the last two years including New Zealand, which signed a BRI Memorandum of Arrangement in March 2017.
The release said it was hoped the Memorandum of Arrangement would facilitate expanded co-operation between the two countries - particularly economic cooperation.
“By way of example, the Cook Islands government, led by Cook Islands Tourism has already advanced marketing strategies in recent years for the China tourism market, targeting the growing affluent market in China for travel to complement the low and shoulder season in the Cook Islands. By per visitor expenditure, Chinese tourists are the second highest in the Cook Islands,” said Puna.
“The designation by China through the BRI of 2019 as the Year of Pacific Tourism elevates the Cook Islands and Pacific profile in China which in turn should deliver higher yields from the China tourism market.
“China’s increased engagement with the Cook Islands and the Pacific over the last 20 years has drawn interest and engagement in the region by other powers, both traditional and new. This has availed the Cook Islands opportunities in trade, diplomacy, development cooperation and investment which we welcome.”
It was expected officials would further discuss specific initiatives under the Belt and Road Memorandum of Arrangement which might be pursued in the year ahead, the release added.