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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (November 30, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---The Cook Islands is again trying to gain membership into the Lomé Convention, something previous governments have attempted for years without success.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Robert Woonton leaves for Brussels tonight. He will be accompanied by International Adviser Jim Gosselin and Iaveta Short, "in the capacity of Technical Adviser," stated a government media release.

The Cook Islands and five other Forum Island countries who aren't members of the Lomé Convention have been granted observer status while their applications for membership are considered. Past applications have failed as the Cook Islands was not fully in control of its foreign affairs activities because of its self-governing status in association with New Zealand since 1965.


"Over the years we have become much more active in the foreign affairs area and we believe that we now meet the criteria to become a party to post-Lomé IV arrangements," stated Dr. Woonton.

The Lomé Convention expires on February 29, 2000. A new treaty to govern trade and other relations between African/Caribbean/Pacific states is under way.

"Being party to the Lomé Convention would also help the Cook Islands to strengthen its trade and investment links with the European Union (EU) which, together with development of the fisheries sector, is a priority of both the Cook Islands and the EU at this time," added Woonton.

After Brussels, Dr. Woonton will hold discussions in Auckland and Wellington regarding official Cook Islands representation in New Zealand before he returns home on December 12.

Travel costs of NZ$ 14,000 (US$ 7,164) for the minister, Gosselin and Short are being met by the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Affairs and the Civil List.

Details of travel by the DPM, Woonton and MP Robert Wigmore were released by the government media office only after inquiries were made by CINews.

Shortly before taking over the country's reins, Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate promised open government and transparency. Clauses covering that are also contained in the coalition government's formal agreement.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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