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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Oceania Flash, Mar. 4) - A high-level trade delegation from New Zealand, headed by New Zealand's Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton, arrived Tuesday in French Polynesia with education and trade exchanges high on the agenda.

During early talks between Sutton and French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse, the two leaders looked for ways of expanding trade and tourism in the French Pacific territory.

Flosse also stressed the cultural ties within what he terms the "Polynesian triangle," including the rich history of Polynesian canoe-sailing peoples migrations within the Pacific Ocean.

Sutton, during his two-day visit, is leading a forty-strong delegation comprising trade officials and private sector representatives (including naval industry, building, engineering, food products, electricity, telecommunications, information technology and training).

Representatives from the New Zealand universities and polytechnics of Nelson (Auckland) and Waikato will also meet representatives of the local University of French Polynesia (UFP).

UFP and Waikato officials have renewed and boosted a students and teachers exchange agreement, whereby New Zealand's French teachers could go to French Polynesia on training assignments.

UFP and Auckland's university officials have also mentioned a more regional project aimed at fostering the knowledge of French language in the Pacific region.

"We're currently working on it, and we'd like this project to expand", UFP vice-chancellor Sylvie André said.

She also stressed that under existing Wellington-funded scholarships, French Polynesia's students were training in New Zealand companies to perfect their import-export skills.

"This is interesting both for us and New Zealand", she said.

In November last year, a high-level delegation from New Zealand's government visited French Polynesia.

During his visit, newly appointed New Zealand Consul General Belinda Brown, who is accredited in the three French Pacific territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna, is accompanying Sutton.

During his two-day visit, Sutton will also meet French High commissioner Michel Mathieu, territorial assembly President Lucette Taero, and the Social and Economic Council.

Recent statistics in French Polynesia reveal that New Zealand, in 2001, was French Polynesia's fourth main supplier of manufactured goods and services (behind France, the United States and Australia), with a total of over eleven billion French Pacific Francs (CFP, over 100 million US dollars, some 7.8 per cent of total imports into the French territory).

Goods imported from New Zealand mainly comprised food (meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables), raw material, fuel and manufactured products.

During the same period, French Polynesia has exported only 109 million CFP (around one million US dollars) to New Zealand, mainly black pearls and copra oil.

But during the first six months of 2002, the French territory's exports to New Zealand have significantly increased and reached a mid-year total of 96 million CFP.

In October, a delegation from New Zealand's trade body, "Trade New Zealand", met French Polynesia's economy minister Georges Puchon.

Sutton's Pacific tour will later this month include American Samoa and Samoa, as well as the other French Pacific territory of New Caledonia

March 5, 2003

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