Partnership a trade boost for the Cook Islands

Guests at the launching of the memorandum of understanding between the Cook Islands Government and the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program in the Cook Islands last week. Picture: Cook Islands Government

The Cook Islands has entered into a new agreement with the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus Program (PHAMA Plus) for technical support under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) to enhance agricultural trade and promote sustainable economic development.

The agreement between the Government of the Cook Islands and the Australia and New Zealand funded PHAMA Plus program was launched today to promote, improve and facilitate access to regional and global trade in primary and value-added products from the Cook Islands, which will contribute to building economic stability and recovery from COVID-19.

The launch coincided with an awareness workshop delivered by HACCP Australia to relevant stakeholders on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), an internationally recognized food safety system critical for market access and trade.

Through the Government of the Cook Islands, PHAMA Plus will work with public and private stakeholders in the Cook Islands to enhance awareness and understanding of market requirements to facilitate trade in primary products.

Specifically, the partnership will include activities that strengthen regional trade facilitation and diversification; certification and quality standards, such as organic and food safety management systems, and good agricultural practice; and capacity-building for compliance with biosecurity requirements, through industry knowledge-building and biosecurity staff and systems support.

“We are certain that our participation in PACER Plus will open new trade and investment opportunities for the Cook Islands that have not existed before. As with every agreement, our partnership with the PHAMA Plus Program will help us to take advantage of those opportunities in the months ahead,” Cook Islands Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Honorable Mark Brown said.

Further commenting on the agreement at the launch of the PHAMA Plus program in the Cook Islands, Minister of Agriculture Honorable Rose Toki-Brown, said: “The goal of this agreement is to provide a collaboration framework between the partners, through which PHAMA Plus technical and facilitation support can be mobilized to relevant public and private sector stakeholders in relation to biosecurity, trade, market access pathways, quality and standards that arise with respect to PACER Plus. This will be critical to our post-COVID recovery efforts and even moreso, to support efforts to diversify the Cook Islands economy.”

From left, Cook Islands Minister of Agriculture Honorable Rose Toki-Brown, New Zealand High Commission First Secretary Okesene Moananu and Acting Australian High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Jane Edquist at the launch of the memorandum of understanding in Cook Islands. Picture: Cook Island News

PACER Plus is a trade and development agreement that came into force on 13 December 2020 signed between Australia, New Zealand and nine Forum Islands Countries (FICs). It provides these countries valuable opportunities to promote and facilitate regional trade and economic integration in the Pacific. Cook Islands ratified PACER Plus in October 2020, bringing the agreement into force.

“This partnership underscores Australia’s support to the Cook Islands to benefit from, regional and global trade and harness opportunities under PACER Plus. PHAMA plus will support Cook Island businesses find new markets,” Chargé d’Affaires at the Australian High Commission Cook Islands Jane Edquist said.

“New Zealand is pleased to continue support for the Market Access work through the PHAMA Plus Program, bringing benefits to a wide range of stakeholders in the Cook Islands, presenting new exporting opportunities and attracting increased investment for our Cook Islands exporters,” New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes said.

The Cook Islands economy is highly dependent on tourism and COVID-19 has had a drastic negative impact on the sector.  COVID-19 has highlighted the need for greater economic diversification, and the agriculture sector presents a number of opportunities in this regard.  

PHAMA Plus will support the Cook Islands with its economic recovery initiatives post-COVID, to diversify into agriculture for exports in response to stakeholder interest.

“It’s pertinent that we’re having this introductory session on HACCP certification, which is a tangible and practical measure that can enhance trade, gain or maintain market access and help businesses add value to their agricultural products,” PHAMA Plus Team Leader Andrew Piper said.

“It’s been a challenging process having working remotely but we appreciate the proactive engagement of the Ministry of Agriculture to develop initiatives that will help farmers, producers and exporters recover from the reduced tourism trade.”

Particular attention will be placed on understanding the role of women, youth and people with disabilities as actors in agri-food value chains and ensuring opportunities for inclusive growth.


For further queries please contact Sangita Kumar Project Manager PACER Plus on

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