Trade and investment are two key areas the newly-formed Australian High Commission in the Cook Islands will look into.
However Chris Munn, the High Commission’s charge d’affaires, said they would be mindful of the capacity constraints here when looking into these sectors.
He said they have a very moderate economic engagement with Cook Islands, which they do not expect to grow fast.
But there is about $100 million worth of trade between the two countries, Munn added.
“I think economically speaking trade and investment is where we can do a bit more work for mutual benefit.”
According to 2018 figures, Australia’s exports of services to Cook Islands stands at $13 million annually.
In return, the Cook Islands gains $73 million through the service industry from Australians visiting the country.
Cook Islands’ major imports from Australia are electric power machinery and parts, alcohol beverages, perfumery and cosmetics and meat (excluding beef).
The country exports fish and fruit juices to Australia.
Munn said they would be encouraging Cook Islands to ratify the Pacer Plus agreement to enable improved trading. Pacer Plus is a proposed free trade agreement between the Forum Island Countries and Australia and New Zealand.
Through the implementation fund associated with the Pacer Plus, he said they would be helping Cook Islands identify sectors where they could break into the Australian market.
“I can’t promise the world because there are some limitations on capacity here but also what we can accept quarantine wise. But we are not taking anything as a no until we test it.
“Discussions have already started but literally everything else is at a very early stage.”
Cook Islands already has a defence relationship with Australia through police patrol vessel Te Kukupa which is due for replacement in 2023, Munn said.
“That’s a hugely important relations for Cook Islands and Australia and also stems, I suppose, a message that Cook Islands and Australia and the rest of the Pacific island countries will work together for the security and strategic interest of the region.”
Last year Australia announced setting up diplomatic missions in Cook Islands and five other Pacific island countries.
Munn is in the country to help with the set-up before Canberra announces their first diplomat to Cook Islands later this month.
“We have a very good relations but it would be better having someone on the ground. We are good friends, we are close partners and there is a list of things we already do. From that baseline list we are going to look at how we can improve it, from mutual benefit.”