Cook Islands has welcomed New Zealand’s ‘re-set’ foreign policy towards its Pacific neighbours.
Prime Minister Henry Puna, speaking in Wellington said Wellington’s proposal to shift the dial on relations with the Pacific ‘comes at a time of dynamic activity in the Pacific, as minor and major global powers engage the region,’ Pacnews reports.
“The Pacific is turning into a contestable space and it can be argued that many Pacific nations ‘re-set’ their foreign policy positions a number of years ago and perhaps New Zealand and Australia are only just now catching up, said PM Puna.
He said Pacific countries have come a long way from the early days of independence of the 1960s through to the 1980s and are becoming more assertive in managing a maze of relationships with new partners – referring to China’s rise in the region.
PM Puna said the Pacific need not be a zero sum game for traditional partners – there is room for other partners to address challenging developments in the Pacific.
For example, the Cook Islands leader shared that his country was one of the first countries in the world to enter into a tripartite development agreement with New Zealand and China to rehabilitate water network in the island nation.
“There have been challenges in bringing three partners together with different approaches to development but the core principles behind this relationship is partnership. Working through these differences is critical in making this partnership work.
“Each partner is committed to success to show that the Pacific is a region of consensus rather than competition – and that we can bring transformational initiatives to fruition collaboratively, said PM Puna.
He said this is an example of Cook Islands innovation in supporting development aspirations, within the provisions of its relationship of free association with New Zealand and a global power such as China.
“It’s an approach we see great value in and will continue to explore with other partners, said the Cook Islands leader.
Cook Islands became an independent territory of New Zealand in 1901 when it was annexed from the United Kingdom and on 4 August 1965, it became a self-government in free association with New Zealand. Free association allows Cook Islands to maintain New Zealand citizenship, whilst at the same time makes its own laws and conducts is own domestic and foreign affairs.