The Cook Islands and French Polynesia have taken a step towards sharing expanded airlinks, which include the countries becoming transit points for long distance flights.
Cook Islands Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Mark Brown, met with his counterpart Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia, to discuss expansion of bilateral co-operation in air links, ICT, trade and investment, labour mobility, health, culture and people to people ties.
The two nations which neighbor each other already have similar cultural practices and even their languages are alike.
The meeting was held while Pacific nations are in Tahiti for the Blue Ocean Forum.
Mr Brown said the outcomes of the discussions with President Fritch and members of his Council of Ministers were very positive.
“My exchange with Minister of Finance and Economy Yvonnick Raffin on expanded airlinks between the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, as well as the Cook Islands and North America/Europe transitting Tahiti included valuable contributions from key stakeholders the likes of Managing Director of Air Rarotonga Ewan Smith, President of Air Tahiti Nui (ATN) Michel Monvoisin and ATNs Chief Executive Officer Mathieu Bechonnet,” said Mr Brown in a statement.
“With the full support of both governments, I’m confident both airlines will be able to confirm arrangements for expanded air services within the coming weeks.”
In a further meeting hosted by Minister Raffin, Mr Brown also met with Thomas Lefebvre-Segard and Jean Christophe Bongi, senior executives of Office de Postes et Telecommunications (OPT) and ONATI, the French Polynesia telecoms operator of the “One Polynesia” Manatua cable. Also in attendance was recently appointed Avaroa Cable Ltd (ACL) chief executive officer Mike Schwarz.
The Manatua cable system (also known as Manatua One Polynesia Cable) is a 3600km submarine cable connecting Samoa, Niue, Rarotonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands and Tahiti and Bora Bora in French Polynesia.
It is the first fibre connectivity to Niue and the Cook Islands.
“The telecoms discussions were necessary to re-connecting in person after two and a half years being restricted to digital communications and I expect closer co-operation between OPT/Onati and ACL in the months ahead which will in turn speed up our digital transformation that is critical for our economic recovery and economy diversification,” said Mr Brown.
“French Polynesia is geographically, our closest partner. Coupled with our strong history of close cooperation politically, economically and culturally with extensive family ties between our people’s.
“This recent undertaking to Tahiti was critical to advance our shared aspirations for expanded cooperation between our two countries which will benefit both our economies and our peoples.”
Mr Brown said it was delightful to resume talks with French Polynesia on expanded bilateral and regional cooperation, which had to be put aside over the last two years because of the response towards COVID-19.