HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Review of 1997 agreement with China essential
The increased interest from Chinese businesses in seeking investment opportunities in the Cook Islands should prompt government to consider a more robust policy framework for establishing some measure of ensuring our economic stability, sovereignty, sustainability of resources, maintenance of social order, and security of future direction as a nation.
As an existing policy framework, the Business Trade and Investment Code should be strengthened and the question of foreigners not requiring a local partner if the level of investment is above a certain limit should be reconsidered especially where the investment proposed involves strategic economic assets such as our fishery and sea bed.
Large scale and unchecked or unmonitored foreign investment in developments and exploitation of our resources could destabilize or lop-side our economy, threaten our sovereignty and ability to set our own future direction as a nation. There are potential risks to social order and preservation of the culture.
In relation to China, there are other provisions established at the higher political level which should be taken into account.
The Joint Communique between our government and the government of China, signed in Wellington on 25 July 1997 set in place a broad politically based framework for progressing the relationship between the two nations.
The agreement is to;
-develop friendly relations and co-operation on the basis of the principles of mutual respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.
The Communique goes further and as such establishes an obligation on the Chinese government which is visionary in the sense that it is directed to the people of the Cook Islands and not specifically the government.
The obligation is;
“The government of the people’s republic of China supports the people of the Cook Islands in their efforts to achieve, in full, their objectives in the areas of social, economic and cultural development. “
In the 15 years since the agreement was signed, China has progressed the relationship slowly and carefully.
Growing Chinese business interests in our fishery resource and perhaps later in our sea bed mineral resource, signal a need to review the agreement.
Chinese business interests arriving in-country to explore business opportunities need to make their presence, intentions and agenda known to government. They should also have their attention drawn to the agreement signed in 1997.
The reason for this is because should Chinese business interests act contrary to the principles set down in the agreement, such actions would surely cause the Chinese government concern.
Notifications and disclosure of business intentions would provide transparency and maintain mutual respect.
Any sizeable Chinese investment could have the potential to throw our small economy off balance.
Local businesses seeking Chinese investors should also be mindful of possible risks to the country as a whole which makes some form of risk assessment essential.
This paper has previously called on government to review the 1997 agreement to ascertain whether it is still relevant and sufficient.
It is not suggested that our government should use the agreement to block or discourage investment rather, the agreement or a revised version of it would ensure a mechanism is in place for ensuring continuing stability in the relationship between our government and the government of China.
Perhaps when the Pacific Leader’s Forum is held this issue could be taken up with the Chinese delegation. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

Copyright 2006 Cook Islands Herald online . All rights reserved.