Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Foreign relations of the Cook Islands

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Foreign relations of the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands maintains diplomatic relations with various countries and is a member of multilateral organisations. While the country is in free association with New Zealand, which can act on the Cook Islands' "delegated authority [...] to assist the Cooks Islands" in foreign affairs, the Cook Islands nevertheless enters into treaty obligations and otherwise "interacts with the international community as a sovereign and independent state."


In the 1980s the Cook Islands became a member of several United Nations specialized agencies: the World Health Organization in 1984, the Food and Agriculture Organization and UNESCO in 1985, and the International Civil Aviation Organization in 1986. The Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs records that in 1988 New Zealand declared "that its future participation in international agreements would no longer extend to the Cook Islands..." In 1991 the Cook Islands became a full member of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Preparatory Committee and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC), which the Repertory of Practice describes as "further evidence that the international community had accepted the Cook Islands as a “State” under international law." The United Nations Secretariat therefore "recognized the full treaty-making capacity of the Cook Islands" in 1992 and the Secretary-General, in his capacity as the depository of multilateral treaties, decided that the Cook Islands could participate in treaties that were open to "all states".

As of August 2015, the Cook Islands has diplomatic relations with 44 states. It has also non-resident mission accredited to the European Union (EU) in Avarua. Todd McClay served as Cook Islands Ambassador to the EU from 2002 to 2008. McClay retired from that position and moved back to New Zealand to successfully contest the Rotorua seat in the 2008 New Zealand General Election. James Gosselin, the Cook Islands Secretary of Foreign Affairs, currently serves as the Cook Islands non-resident representative to the European Union (resident in Avarua).

In 2000 the Cook Islands government signed the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

Upon signature of this agreement the Cook Islands Government established a representation to the EU in Brussels. In 2002 this representation was upgraded to a full diplomatic mission with accreditation to the European Union. The establishment of this mission marked an important development in Cook Islands international relations representing the first full diplomatic mission established by the Cook Islands outside of Pacific countries.

The Cook Islands Mission to the European Communities interacts with European Union institutions, the ACP Group of States and other bilateral country representations and embassies.

Diplomatic relations

The following countries have established formal diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands.


  •  Australia 1994
  •  Fiji 1998
  •  Kiribati 3 September 2013
  •  Marshall Islands 3 September 2013
  •  Micronesia 24 September 2014
  •  Nauru 1994
  •  New Zealand 1993
  •  Niue 2013
  •  Palau 3 September 2013
  •  Papua New Guinea 1995
  •  Samoa 2013
  •  Solomon Islands 2013
  •  Tonga 18 November 2014
  •  Tuvalu 2013
  •  Vanuatu 2013
  • Europe

  •  Belgium 6 April 2005
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina 10 April 1996
  •  Czech Republic 12 May 2008
  •  European Union 2001
  •  France 2000
  •  Germany 11 September 2001
  •  Holy See 29 April 1999
  •  Italy 21 February 2002
  •  Kosovo 18 May 2015
  •  Netherlands 16 August 2011
  •  Norway 1998
  •  Portugal 12 August 1995
  •  Spain 29 January 1998
  •   Switzerland 7 March 2011
  •  Turkey 20 October 2008
  • Asia

  •  China 25 July 1997
  •  India 1998
  •  Iran 1 March 1996
  •  Israel 2008
  •  Japan 16 June 2011
  •  Malaysia 2 May 1992
  •  Philippines 12 December 2011
  •  Singapore 6 August 2012
  •  South Korea 22 February 2013
  •  Thailand April 2005
  •  Timor-Leste 17 August 2002
  • Americas

  •  Brazil 21 August 2015
  •  Cuba 2 September 2002
  •  Jamaica 14 May 2003
  • Africa

  •  South Africa 9 February 1996
  • Consular relations

    The following countries have established consular relations with the Cook Islands only.

  •  Monaco 2007 or before
  •  Panama 2016 or before
  •  United States 22 February 1995 or before
  • International organisation participation

  • ACP, AOSIS, AsDB, ESCAP (associate), FAO, ICAO, IMO, ICC, ICFTU, IFAD, ILO IOC, OPCW, Pacific Islands Forum, Red Cross/Red Crescent, South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, Sparteca, SPC, UNESCO, WHO, WMO
  • In November 2011, the Cook Islands were one of the eight founding members of Polynesian Leaders Group, a regional grouping intended to cooperate on a variety of issues including culture and language, education, responses to climate change, and trade and investment.
  • The Cook Islands participate in the International Maritime Organisation, the United Nations regulatory body for the shipping trade. Their position against reducing carbon emissions from international shipping has drawn criticism from other Pacific island nations who are similarly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
  • Participation in international treaties and conventions

  • Party to the following treaties and conventions: Biodiversity Convention, Cotonou Agreement, Geneva Conventions, POPs Project, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, UNCLOS, UNFCCC and its Kyoto protocol, Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, Biological Weapons Convention, Convention of the International Mobile Satellite Organization
  • References

    Foreign relations of the Cook Islands Wikipedia

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