COOKS SIGN "MILESTONE" EU TRADE AGREEMENT

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SUVA, Fiji (Pacnews, April 24) - Cook Islands Prime Minister
Robert Woonton signed an historic agreement with the European Union, allowing
the islands to access millions of dollars of aid over the next 20 years.

Woonton met with Frans Baan, the head of the delegation of the
European Commission, to sign agreements known as the country strategy paper and
the national indicative program.

The agreement will offer $2.24 million for health and education
to the outer islands for the next two years, but they could see the Cooks
benefit up to the tune of $3.37 million, providing the country meets EU
standards of financial supervision.

A further $674,000 has also been offered to government for
"unseen events" such as emergency aid and debt-relief contributions.
Some of this EU aid will be available for non-governmental organizations to
access.

The Cook Islands is one of 78 countries in Africa, the Caribbean
and the Pacific — the ACP countries — that has negotiated an aid-for-trade
partnership with the European Union.

A new direction in EU policy shows that the resolution of world
hunger has been sidelined for aggressive private sector development in ACP
countries and the EU will be looking at ways to liberalize trade with the Cooks
and will review the country’s aid plan in 2005 to see if the country is using
the money as agreed to.

"The overriding objective of the new Cotonou Agreement is
the alleviation of poverty," said Woonton. "This agreement is a
milestone in the development of the Cook Islands and shows a real partnership
with us and the European Union."

Poverty is still a buzzword of the Cotonou Agreement, but it has
been firmly pushed to the back seat in favor of creating an investment facility
to support the development of local business. Therefore development aid in the
Cooks must be mutually reinforced through correct trade cooperation.

April 25, 2003

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