Named after Captain James Cook who sighted them in 1770, the islands became a British protectorate in 1888. By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand. In 1965, residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand and have been ever since.
Like many other South Pacific island nations, the Cook Islands' economic development is hindered by the isolation of the country from foreign markets, lack of natural resources, periodic devastation from natural disasters, and inadequate infrastructure.
Agriculture provides the economic base with major exports made up of copra and citrus fruit. Manufacturing activities are limited to fruit processing, clothing, and handicrafts.
Trade deficits are made up for by remittances from emigrants and by foreign aid, overwhelmingly from New Zealand. Efforts to exploit tourism potential, encourage offshore banking, and expand the mining and fishing industries have been partially successful in stimulating investment and growth.
The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems.