The event was attended by a small gathering of invited guests including the Japanese ambassador to New Zealand, Toshihisa Takata, First Secretary Noriko Tanaka, prime minister Henry Puna, Finance minister Mark Brown, Agriculture minister Kiriau Turepu and members of the business community.
In a presentation following speeches from both the ambassador and the prime minister, Webb said when he had been offered the position as honorary Consul-General of Japan in the Cook Islands he hadn’t needed any persuasion.
“I was honoured and privileged to accept the appointment as the first Cook Islander to be appointed Honorary Consul by an Asian country.
“It is a great honour for me to be appointed as Honorary Consul-General of Japan in the Cook Islands and to be part of a trend towards honorary consuls whose numbers have been growing steadily in recent years.
“Honorary consuls are typically locals and they bring with them institutional knowledge, business experience and networks to strengthen and transform consular diplomacy. In an increasingly globalised world this, to me, is the true value proposition for honorary consuls.”
Webb said he hoped to play a role in promoting trade, investment and tourism opportunities for mutual economic benefit.
“From a trade perspective, in 2016 imports from Japan were valued at $2.8m which contrasts with $9.6m in exports to Japan from the Cook Islands. The potential for trade with Japan is significant.
“Having Japanese diplomatic representation in the Cook Islands reinforces bilateral cooperation between the two countries that stretches back many years, before diplomatic relations were formalised in 2011.
“Today, Japan continues to provide assistance to the Cook Islands in many areas, through Japan’s community grant assistance and human resource capability building programmes as well as technical assistance. This form of assistance directed to local communities where it is most needed, creates links that foster a strong economic and social bond between the two countries.”
Webb said that since 2011, the government of Japan had provided over $1.5 million in community grant assistance.
“I hope the pending Official Development Assistance graduation will not see this support diminish because it is still needed.”
“I look forward to serving as honorary Consul-General of Japan in the Cook Islands and will do so to the best of my ability. “