HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 581: 14 September 2011

Positive outcomes for Cook Islands at Pacific Leaders Forum

On Tuesday the Prime Minister, Hon Henry Puna released the following information on the outcomes from the Pacific Leaders Forum held in Auckland last week.

• SIS: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, RMI and Tuvalu
• Leaders reviewed climate change issues, issued a Statement on Climate Change and called on developed countries to accommodate the particular capacity constraints of the SIS and ensure tailor-made modalities of access to the new Green Climate Fund established by the Copenhagen Accord
• SIS Leaders directed the SPC to continue progressing SIS shipping issues, including preparing a model that would facilitate cost-effective shipping services for SIS while ensuring commercial viability
• Leaders discussed the particular energy needs and strategies of the SIS and the need for external assistance to achieve their energy goals
• Leaders directed officials to be directly involved in Pacific Island Country Trade Agreement (PICTA) and Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) trade negotiations
• Leaders called on development partners to assist them in the implementation of the Pacific Education Development Framework
• Leaders supported the implementation of the Action Plan of the Pacific Regional Strategy on Disability
• Leaders supported the call by Pacific Ministers of Health to secure the highest level of political commitment to address emerging health issues, especially NCDs
• All Forum Island Countries (not Australia and New Zealand)
• Leaders agreed for steps to be taken to establish an Eminent Persons Group to consider and make recommendations to PACP Leaders on how best PACP States might manage their own affairs including their relations with the EU
• Leaders agreed on a course of action to pursue their EPA negotiations with the EU, including pressing the EU for preferential access for Pacific fish exports
• Leaders also agreed on a number of steps to progress the negotiations of their trade and economic cooperation relations with Australia and New Zealand (PACER Plus), including the adoption of a phased approach to the negotiations depending on individual countries capabilities
• All Forum Ministers, including Australia and New Zealand
• The Forum theme was sustainable economic development and Leaders had a thorough discussion of national and regional initiatives in this regard, including the important role of the private sector. They adopted the Waiheke Declaration in which they pledged, inter alia, to foster an environment that supports increased investment, productive activity and the strengthening of the private sector.
• Leaders emphasised the importance of regional solidarity in the conservation and management of the region’s fish stocks and in fisheries negotiations with distant water fishing nations, including the US.
• Leaders stressed the importance of energy audits and the formulation of energy plans such as that being developed by the Cook Islands and called on development partners to assist in such initiatives.
• Leaders gave priority to EPA negotiations as well as regional trade in services negotiations under PICTA and progressing PACER Plus negotiations.
• Leaders reaffirmed that climate change constituted the greatest single risk to the livelihoods, security and well-being of Pacific peoples. They stressed the critical need for adaptation financing for the region and tasked the Forum Secretariat and other agencies to see how best Forum Island Countries could access climate change financing.
• Leaders adopted the Forum Statement on NCDs (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes) and committed themselves to taking action at both the national and regional levels to address the crisis.
• Leaders of several Pacific nations boosted their commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape in Auckland with confirmation of a new marine park and sanctuary, and the identity of the first Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner.
• Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna emphasized the need for Pacific peoples to reclaim their ‘mana’ for the ocean and dedicated the Cook Islands newly declared marine park as the Cook Islands commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape. At more than one million square kilometers the marine park, which covers half the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the entire southern island group, is the largest in the world today. “We have inherited our great ocean - Moana Nui o Kiva - and we must feel the ‘mana’- the honour – of being its stewards,” said the Rt Hon Henry Puna.
• Ulu Faipule Foua Toloa followed this announcement with Tokelau’s designation of their waters as a sanctuary for marine mammals, turtles and sharks. Also among the announcements made yesterday was that Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade is to be the first Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner. His role is to be the united voice for the Pacific Ocean and to help the region prepare for the United Nation’s Rio + 20 and other international meetings.
• Two major new funders also threw their support behind the Pacific Oceanscape. The MacArthur Foundation committed $US500,000 to assist in covering the Pacific Oceanscape’s set-up costs, while Spark Good Ventures will contribute $US100,000 towards EEZ security issues including the impact of climate change.
• The Prime Minister welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs; and congratulated him on assuming office. On substantive matter, the Prime Minister was appreciative of assistance provided through the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund. He had received advice that the first approval had come through for solar energy for Rakahanga. Government was serious about converting its energy sources increasingly into renewables.
• The VM responded that Japan was also looking at renewables but for the time being would need to continue to rely on nuclear energy. Japan was looking at funding innovations in renewables.
• The Prime Minister said that Government’s emphasis was on solar energy. The Cook Islands will be hosting the 2012 Forum and would be pleased to receive the Japanese delegation. It could be a good time for Japan to promote its renewable energy, showcasing its electric cars etc.
• The VM said that Japan was looking to the Cook Islands co-chairing PALM next year. The Prime Minister responded that New Zealand had agreed that the Cook Islands should co-chair. The Minister of Finance reiterated that the shift to renewables offered a good opportunity for Japan to showcase its electric cars.
• The VM undertook to look into the matter and would inform Japanese companies.
• The Prime Minister raised the possibility of dealing directly with Japan concerning PEC funding to quicken the decision-making/approval process for Cook Islands initiatives.
The VM replied that Japan would look into the matter to try to find a way forward.
• The Vice Foreign Minister, Mr Cui Tiankai (VFM) sent greetings from Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. He congratulated the Prime Minister on the Cook Islands hosting the 2012 Forum and looked forward to going to the Cook Islands. Of the pending trip to China, Cui remarked that the Prime Minister had made a good choice of going to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
• The Cook Islands wants to broaden and strengthen the relationship between the two countries and the visit was a testament to that close relationship. Guangdong Province was included because their delegation had wanted the Prime Minister to visit them.
• The Prime Minister observed that the 2012 Forum would be good for the Cook Islands. It would present an ideal opportunity for the Cook Islands to show off what the country had achieved over the years. Government looked forward to welcoming its friends.
• The Prime Minister expressed Government’s appreciation for Chinese assistance. The Minister of MOIP would be accompanying the Prime Minister to China to inspect equipment etc to see how best to use the grant funds. When he was in Athens he inspected a solar energy facility, the solar panels having originated in China. That is one area for possible cooperation between the two Governments.
• China expressed that it would like to increase cultural exchanges and would encourage Chinese tourists to visit the Cook Islands. China had considerable experience and expertise in renewable energy and this was one area of possible cooperation. China would cooperate in regard to equipment, cars etc and Chinese officials would be in touch. If the Prime Minister needed assistance in preparing for the Forum the Chinese Government through its Ambassador in Wellington would be available to help.
• The Prime Minister noted that the Cook Islands Minister of Culture had given his commitment for a Cook Islands team to participate in the Guangdong Fair in November. The Prime Minister looked forward to discussing with the Chinese Government possible assistance towards the Forum with the possibility of Chinese firms promoting their products, especially electric cars, during the Forum. While in China, the Minister of MOIP would be looking at possible VIP Protocol cars, as China had assisted Vanuatu in the latter’s hosting of the Forum.
FORUM 2012
• The actual financial costs of hosting the Forum will depend on a number of factors, including how many foreign visitors come for the various meetings, how much hospitality Government provides (e.g., how many dinners etc), whether the Retreat is held in Aitutaki etc.
• An estimated 270 people are conservatively expected to take part in the various events:
160 Forum delegates (16 Members x 10)
15 Forum secretariat staff
15 Regional organisations representatives (SPC, FFA etc)
30 Associate Members, observers (French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Timor Leste, American Samoa, Guam etc)
50 Dialogue Partners (France, UK, US etc)
• The Cook Islands is a very popular spot and we can expect a lot of people will want to come here
• The vast majority of the money spent in hosting the Forum will be spent in the Cook Islands (accommodation, meals, wages for drivers etc)
• It is expected the vehicles for VIP will be secured through grant assistance from one or more donors and have not been included here
• Australia has offered to contribute $200,000 towards the cost of hosting the Forum (for purchase of equipment etc)
• This is a great opportunity to showcase the Cook Islands culture, tourism, development projects etc internationally
• More than 250 delegates will be paying for their own accommodation
• Many delegates will be eating in local restaurants and frequenting entertainment venues
• Many delegates will be wanting to purchase black pearls and other Cook Islands handicrafts and gifts to take back home
• Almost all of the money spent by Government hosting the Forum will be spent in the Cook Islands
• The state visit by the Prime Minister to China is a direct result of an invitation from the Chinese Government.
• In their culture, the Chinese consider it very important to establish close personal contacts with those with whom they deal as the basis for trust and the establishment of long-term relationships.
• Numerous Chinese representatives have visited the Cook Islands in the past several months (e.g., Mr Du Qiwen, Special Representative of the PRC, in January this year – he issued the invitation; the Guandong delegation). The Chinese wished to reciprocate the hospitality extended to them by inviting the Prime Minister and his delegation to visit China.
• The visit will afford an opportunity for senior Chinese Leaders to meet and establish closer personal relations with the Prime Minister and for him to experience at first hand important aspects of modern China and to see how best the Cook Islands might relate to China in the years ahead.
• In that regard, there will also be exploration of opportunities for economic-related cooperation between the two countries (e.g. pearls, tourism, agriculture, renewable energy technology, development assistance)
• As it is a state visit, Mrs Puna will accompany the Prime Minister as well as the Hon Teariki Heather. While in China, he will be looking at possible equipment to be obtained through Chinese aid funds, especially for the Outer Islands.
• Mr Kiriau Turepu will also be looking at agricultural research stations and farms and discussing with Chinese authorities possible cooperation in the agricultural sector. Two government officials (Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Acting Secretary of MOIP) will also accompany Ministers.
• As in keeping with such visits, the Cook Islands delegation will meet its own costs in travelling to/from China while the Chinese Government will meet the accommodation, normal meals and transportation costs inside China itself.
• The delegation will leave this Friday for a week long visit and will return on 26 September 2011.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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