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Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has signed the Cook Islands’ Instrument of Ratification for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) following completion of domestic processes and approval by Cabinet Tuesday.
The Cook Islands is the eighth signatory of PACER Plus to ratify the Agreement, thus bringing the Agreement into force with the Cook Islands being one of the original parties.
PACER Plus negotiations began in 2009 and ended in 2017 with the Cook Islands and other Forum Members signing the Agreement at a special ceremony in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, on 14 June 2017. The objective of the Agreement is to maximise opportunities for Forum Island Countries (FICs) to use trade and investment as engines of growth, to create jobs and ensure higher incomes and living standards. In contrast to previous trade agreements to which the Cook Islands is party, PACER Plus includes detailed provisions not only on trade in goods but also trade in services and investment, increasingly important areas of international trade.
Of great importance for the Cook Islands are the associated commitments of Australia and New Zealand to provide Aid-for-Trade assistance AUD$ 25 million(US$17 million) to enable FIC parties to PACER Plus to build their capacities to be able to take advantage of opportunities that will become available under the Agreement. Other parties to PACER Plus to date are Australia, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
For the past three years, the Cook Islands has been working to put in place legal and other arrangements to enable the Government to ratify the Agreement. Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) is responsible for Government trade policy matters and has led the Cook Islands participation in PACER Plus-related activities. In doing so, it has played a coordination role within Government in efforts to prepare for ratification, working closely with the Business Trade and Investment Board, the Crown Law Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and others on various aspects of the Agreement. Valuable legal advice was also provided by Chapman Tripp legal consultants in New Zealand.
In recent years MFAI has been proactive in consulting with national stakeholders from the public and private sectors and civil society about the Agreement. Prior to entry into force of the Agreement in December, MFAI will coordinate a final round of national consultations to explain key provisions of the final Agreement and identify trade-related needs.
On signing the Instrument of Ratification, Prime Minister Brown stressed the importance of PACER Plus for the Cook Islands: “economic diversification is a cornerstone of our development strategy and international trade policy must be an important strategic tool we use to strengthen and diversify our economy. We have participated actively over the years in the PACER Plus negotiations and fought hard to ensure that the Agreement will work for us. We are certain that PACER Plus will open new trade and investment opportunities for the Cook Islands that have not existed before. As with every Agreement, however, it will be up to us to take advantage of those opportunities in the months ahead. My Government is committed to that goal and will dedicate resources to support make that possible and working closely with our business community in the months ahead,” PM Brown said.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS FOREIGN MINISTRY/PACNEWS
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