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Pacific no longer anybody's 'back yard'

The Cook Islands finance minister, Mark Brown, says the Pacific is no longer anybody's 'backyard'.


Mark Brown is in Samoa as a keynote speaker at a forum on China's presence in the region, to discuss the region's first tripartite agreement - the China, New Zealand, Cook Islands water infrastructure project.


The arrangement was initiated by the Cook Islands whereby China agreed to partner with a third party, instead of the usual case of going directly to a donor country.


He told Matariki FM that the Cook Islands are calling the shots.


"It's an area of global competitiveness in terms of the fisheries access that we have. Those sorts of old alliances don't work anymore in terms of the way that Pacific countries want to progress themselves. We're taking a leading role in this and our traditional partners are almost supporting actors."


Mark Brown says the agreement is being looked at around the world to see if it's a model that could work for engaging China on a more multi-lateral basis.




An academic says Pacific Island nations have become savvy at securing international partnerships that shape their development.


Paul D'Arcy, from the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific, is one of the speakers at this week's 'China and the Pacific' conference at the National University of Samoa which is examining the Chinese role in the region.


Delegates have noted an increase in Chinese aid projects in the Pacific region.


Dr D'Arcy says Island governments have learnt how to seek out beneficial aid partnerships and the Chinese are good at listening to what the islands want.


"What we are now seeing is the nature of Chinese aid, is that we get Chinese entrepreneurs or Chinese companies coming and saying what do you want? Because they have to go sell that then to Chinese state banks and so it's very much more so a partnership at a ground level getting these aid programmes going."


Paul D'Arcy says China is flexible and learning more about aid delivery by working with other donor countries in the Pacific, such as with Australia on malaria prevention in Papua New Guinea, and with New Zealand on a water project in the Cook Islands.