In September 2020 in Suva, Fiji, Cook Islands High Commission – Charge d'affaires Cook Islands Jim Armistead (left) and EU Ambassador to the Pacific Sujiro Seam bilateral meeting to discuss economic co-operation and to receive a condolence letter on the passing of Cook Islands statesman the late Dr Joe Williams. Photo: MFAI. 20101329
The presence of a Cook Islands High Commission in Fiji is expected to enable some opening of business opportunities for Cook Islands private sector.
This comes after the High Commission to Fiji is planning to engage with private sector entities in Fiji and Cook Islands businesses wanting business assistance in that part of the country in the near future.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Immigration secretary Tepaeru Herrmann says as the regional business hub for the Pacific, a Suva presence enables some opening up of business opportunities in Fiji - one which the Ministry through the High Commission looks forward to supporting in the coming months.
Herrmann said the motivation for establishing the mission was to ‘grow Cook Islands influence within the region, pursue further economic cooperation with Fiji and expand prospects in the main Pacific regional hub’.
“A Suva presence strengthens our government’s ability to engage in a sustained manner in key regional discussions that determine regional priorities and resource allocation.”
The High Commission will support Cook Islands Government and private sector interests in Fiji.
Hermann noted the growing influence of imports from Fiji that has risen from around $4 million in 2015 to $28 million in 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for Cook Islands Chargé d'affaires to Fiji as it disrupted the first 10 months of operations with Covid-19 cutting across all aspects of mission set up.
Jim Armistead was appointed Chargé d'affaires late last year and his role involved securing premises for the Mission and seconded staff, providing consular services, setting up diplomatic networks, instituting office systems and growing the profile of the Cook Islands.
Armistead says: “It is a privilege to be given the chance to lead the set-up of our second diplomatic mission but this work is a culmination of a concerted effort by the Ministry over a number of years, supported by our Government and a response to calls from our business sector for greater trade and business with Fiji.”
Armistead says the onset of the Covid- 19 pandemic has been challenging given the uncertainty of lockdowns, procuring material and recruiting local staff.
However, he said they have been proactive in building relations with Fiji and engaging in the regional work of the Pacific Islands Forum, Pacific Community, the University of the South Pacific and development partners based in Suva, including India and the European Union.
Herrmann added that much like the High Commission in Wellington, the Suva diplomatic office has a selected team of experienced Cook Islanders who bring to their roles expertise and professional networks.
This was the first diplomatic mission for the Cook Islands in Fiji where Armistead relocated to Suva mid-January this year and has overseen the office set up including growing the mission’s network of partners.