The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy in the South Pacific Ocean, in free association with New Zealand. The 15 small islands have a total land area of 240 square kilometres (92.7 sq miles), but the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers 1,800,000 square kilometres (690,000 sq miles) of ocean. The main population centre is on the island of Rarotonga (14,153 in 2006), where there is an international airport. There is a much larger population of Cook Islanders in New Zealand, particularly the North Island. In the 2006 census, 58,008 self-identified as being of ethnic Cook Island Māori descent.
With about 100,000 visitors travelling to the islands in the 2010-11 financial year, tourism is the country’s main industry, and the leading element of the economy, far ahead of offshore banking, pearls, and marine and fruit exports.
Infrastructure & Economy
Rarotonga has a highly developed communication system, with satellite telephone, the Internet, e-mail and fax facilities. Direct dialling to Rarotonga is available from most countries. New Zealand Airlines fly via Rarotonga to and from Auckland, Tahiti, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Fiji, and provide direct access to the USA, South East Asia and Australia, as well as Europe.
The Cook Islands economy is primarily based on tourism and fishing. In recent years the offshore industry has expanded enormously due to the innovative and progressive legislation, which facilitates the establishment of numerous offshore structures, such as international business companies, offshore banks, offshore insurance companies and wealth preservation trusts.
- The official language is English with Chinese being spoken and used widely in business context.
• Exchange Control
- Only in relation to certain dealings in New Zealand Dollars. There are no local restrictions on the movement of funds to or from the Cook Islands in other currencies and funds may be held and business transacted in the Cook Islands in any currency.
• Type of Law
- Based on English Common Law.
• Principal Corporate Legislation
- The International Companies Act 1981-1982.
- Limited Liability Company Act 2008.
• Type of Company for International Trade and Investment
- International Business Companies, which may be limited by share or by guarantee, or which may be no liability, unlimited companies and mutual companies.
• Restrictions on Trading
- Cannot trade within the Cook Islands or undertake the business of banking or insurance unless licensed under the Offshore Banking Act or the Offshore Insurance Act.
• Powers of Company
- A Cook Islands International Company has the same powers as a natural person.
• Language of Legislation and Corporate Documents
• Shelf Companies Available
• Language of Name
• Registered Office Required
- Yes, must be maintained in Cook Islands at the address of a licensed management company or law firm.
• Name Restrictions
- Anything identical to or similar to a company already incorporated.
• Suffixes to Denote Limited Liability
- Names must end with one of the following words, or abbreviations thereof - Limited, Corporation, Incorporated, Societe Anonyme or Sociedad Anonima.
• Disclosure of Beneficial Ownership to Authorities?