Economic Development Agency (EDA) representatives that accompanied their respective Pacific island country delegations to the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) NZ Pasifika Business Market in Auckland last month are positive about the outcomes resulting from their companies’ participation.

Esterlina Kautoke ‘Alipate, Senior Trade Officer at MCCTIL led the Tongan delegation.

The EDA representatives that accompanied their respective country business delegations were from the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, the Cook Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Incidentally, three of the five EDA representatives – Tonga, the Cook Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands – were women.

Esterlina Kautoke ‘Alipate, Senior Trade Officer at Tonga’s Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation & Labour (MCCTIL), said she was pleased at the outcomes of the Pasifika Business Market for her delegation.

“Customer feedback to our root crops has been valuable. We now have a better idea of customer preferences for taro in New Zealand,” Ms ‘Alipate told Pacific Periscope. “This will lead to new opportunities that will be tailor made for the Kiwi market.”

European visitors at the Tongan fresh produce stalls had never seen taro before and were fascinated by it, she said. “That itself is a potential new market for Tongan taro.”

Tongan coffee and seaweed also drew interest from visitors, she said.

Having been in the role relatively recently, Ms ‘Alipate said she was not involved with the Ministry’s participation in the Path to Market programme with PTI NZ but had heard about the popularity of the programme in Tonga from colleagues and the industry.

“I really think it’s a great programme to upskill exporters. I am looking forward to receiving a detailed debrief from our participants after Pasifika with a view to developing a monitoring system to progress these companies into growing their exports,” she said.

“We need a system with benchmarks and milestones to progress this initiative. Information collected can be analysed and better used to respond to international market requirements.”

She said she saw Path to Market and participation in New Zealand trade shows like the Pasifika Business Market as a “focal point” for her Ministry.

Her visit to New Zealand was also useful in strengthening relationships with the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, which was an important link to Tongan exporting companies in New Zealand.

Echoing sentiments of other EDA representatives, Ms ‘Alipate said, “Intra-regional opportunities were an unexpected avenue that has opened up. We need to explore opportunities in other Pacific Islands, not just in New Zealand.”

Ms ‘Alipate said being at Pasifika was also about learning from other countries and exporters, what they do and how they do it and what Tongan exporters can learn from them.

BTIB’s Mona Taio at the Pasifika Business Market in Auckland.

For Cook Islands Business Trade and Investment Bureau’s Trade & Marketing Officer Mona Taio, participation of the Cook Islands delegation of companies was a learning experience but one that was satisfying.

“It was good for me as a representative of the main EDA for Cook Islands to be here with our two participating companies to collect feedback first-hand,” she said.

BTIB is PTI NZ’s in-country partner for Path to Market in the Cook Islands. In 2017, PTI NZ partnered with the BTIB to deliver an internship programme in New Zealand with the aim of developing a better understanding for the New Zealand market for exports from the Cook Islands. As part of this programme, Ms Taio worked with the PTI NZ team for a period of two weeks, which coincided with PTI’s participation at the New Zealand Spring Gift and Homeware Fair

Iva Reimers-roberto of the Marshall Islands.


Ms Taio said she hoped next year’s participation would see six companies from the Cook Islands participating in Pasifika 2019, following the delivery of a Path to Market programme in Rarotonga in May this year.

Iva Reimers-Roberto, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Resources and Development in the Marshall Islands, who regularly attends trade shows with Marshall Islands companies around the region said she was impressed by some facets of the Path to Market programme.

She said the one-on-one business meetings following the Pasifika Business Market was something she would look at recommending for their attendance at the annual Guam Festival which is held for the different countries of Micronesia.

“I loved the atmosphere at Pasifika. There is so much potential here,” she told Pacific Periscope.

For more information on EDAs of these countries, email PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong at

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