FRENCH POLYNESIA PRESIDENT’S CHINESE TRIP ANNOYS FRENCH FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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FRENCH POLYNESIA PRESIDENT’S CHINESE TRIP ANNOYS FRENCH FOREIGN AFFAIRS

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (Oct. 14, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse's first official trip to the People's Republic of China and talks with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on bilateral trade have sparked a controversy with the French Foreign Affairs, the French territory's Tahitipresse agency reports.

Flosse is currently on a 10-day official trip in China.

During talks with Zemin, he vowed to increase trade with China, involving tourism, black pearls and possible construction in China of 50 tuna fishing vessels.

But the trip triggered remarks Friday from France's Foreign Affairs Spokesman François Rivasseau, who said on RFO television that "France's foreign policy demands a global coherence of its diplomatic action.

"The law is the same for all, and it must be respected. And the law currently does not allow French Polynesia to enter into international agreements," Rivasseau was reported as saying.

In a statement Monday, Flosse accused the French comments of starting "a useless controversy which is subject to interpretation."

Flosse also said such "analysis of the situation was baseless.

"I am responding to an official invitation from President Jiang Zemin. I am carrying a message from the president of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac. This proves this trip was approved at the highest level of the French Republic."

Flosse said the trip was mainly aimed at "strengthening historical ties between French Polynesia and China" and "set a new momentum to economic exchanges.

"Besides, under French Polynesia's current status (of French Overseas Territory), France entrusts us with the choice of our own development choices," Flosse said.

He added these choices happened to be black pearl farming, construction of  a tuna fishing fleet and "prospecting for new suppliers.

"These are domains that are crucial to French Polynesia's economy development and they do not in any way disturb the diplomatic action of France," Flosse stressed, adding he also intended to open a permanent trade office in Beijing.

During his half-hour interview with Zemin, Flosse also signalled he was seriously considering China as a possible provider of construction material and general goods.

"The objective is to identify products of similar quality, but cheaper than those currently imported from countries in the dollar or Euro zones," a statement later explained.

The French territory is home to an affluent Chinese community.

Zemin was in French Polynesia in April last year on a brief, private visit on his way back from South America.

TAHITI WANTS TO OPEN A PERMANENT OFFICE IN CHINA

PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (Oct. 11, 2002 – Tahitipress)---The president of the government of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, who is currently on an official visit in China, announced last week that he was ready to open a permanent office for Tahiti in Beijing.

This office, he said during an interwiew aired on the territorial television TNTV, would help promote tourism and Tahitian black pearl exports.

"When I will be back in Tahiti, I will work on this project. Our current trade mission is important but there has to be a follow-up," he said.

The government also plans to have visitors from China. This would only be possible if Tahiti gets a special status from the Chinese government.

"But this is only one part of the solution. On the other hand, the French government has to deliver visas for Chinese visitors more easily," Flosse added.

About 400,000 to 500,000 Chinese travel each year to France alone.

Air Tahiti Nui has weekly flights from Papeete to Tokyo. An extra service from Tokyo to Beijing is being considered by the government of French Polynesia.

Flosse also said that China could be an interesting market to find goods at a lower price than in Europe.

The trip of the Tahitian delegation to the People's Republic of China ends Oct. 15.

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

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