Journalist: Madam Bishop, what was the content of the meeting (with Ms George Pau-Langevin, French Minister for Overseas Territories)?
Minister Bishop: I had a very positive discussion with the Minister about France’s Overseas Territories where they intersect with Australia’s interests. We spoke about the Pacific where we welcome France’s continuing contribution to peace and stability. France has interests in New Caledonia and French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. We value the contribution that France makes in the Pacific; its influence on liberal democracies and economic development. Likewise, we discussed the Indian Ocean – also part of Australia’s region, where France has interests. We talked about ways that we can continue to promote stability and peace in the Indian Ocean. Australia is chairing the Indian Ocean Rim Association, a group of 20 countries of the Indian Ocean, and France is a dialogue partner to that association. We welcome France’s contribution in the Indian Ocean as well.
Journalist: What more precisely are Australia’s interests with the French territories in the Pacific?
Minister Bishop: They are French territories and they are part of the Pacific region where Australia has interests. We provide overseas development assistance and support to many countries in the Pacific, so we appreciate the role that France plays with the French territories in that region. Australia is a significant presence in the Pacific along with New Zealand in terms of being a partner for many of these countries in economic development, security, fisheries management, disaster relief management and the like.
Journalist: And do you want to develop trade with the French territories?
Minister Bishop: Indeed, the Pacific is currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement among Pacific nations and we would certainly like to see New Caledonia as part of that Free Trade agreement. We want to encourage more trade and investment not only with Australia and New Zealand but among the nations themselves and that’s part of our push to see more economic development.
Journalist: In which fields?
Minister Bishop: We want to see more of the Pacific nations becoming involved in regional and global supply chains. We want to support whatever industries, manufacturing, tourism and trading activities that take place. We want to see them as sustainable economies in the Pacific and that includes New Caledonia
Journalist: Would you say that the French territories are late compared to, say, English enterprises?
Minister Bishop: I wouldn’t make those comparisons. Our interest is to promote peace and stability in the Pacific and we welcome France’s positive contribution in that regard.
Journalist: What do you think about the development of Chinese investment in French Polynesia?
Minister Bishop: We are aware that the Chinese are showing interest in investing in the Pacific more generally and we welcome it. We think that there is room for a lot of assistance in the Pacific and whether it’s Chinese or other nations we welcome that contribution. But we have to ensure that we work in consultation with each other, that we co-operate with each other so that we don’t see duplication or any clash of ideas and support. So we’re working in partnership with China in some limited fields but I think that we could see more of that across the board and that’s a matter that I raised with the Minister: the idea of working in partnership with China in terms of its investment interests in the Pacific.
* France Ô is a French public television network featuring programming from the French overseas departments and territories.
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