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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Mar. 31) - French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru sees a visit by a New Zealand government official as a direct result of Tahiti’s political change nearly four weeks ago.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said Wednesday that the aim of his two-day official visit was to "understand the change that had taken place" with the objective of "working in partnership" with the new Temaru government, which replaced the Flosse government on March 7.

This was Temaru’s first foreign diplomatic meeting since returning to office.

And while Goff and Temaru discussed economic and cultural relations between New Zealand and Tahiti, Temaru, the leader of a pro-independence political party for many years, also brought up the subject of Tahiti’s independence from France. Temaru, the current leader of a majority coalition government for the second time in less than a year, described Tahiti’s independence as his life’s dream, even while explaining that the subject was not on the agenda.

"We’ll talk about that again in 10 or 15 years," Temaru said. "We must first work hard to develop our economy and we’re not yet there today."

Tahiti’s huge trade deficit (estimated US$116 million in 2003) with New Zealand leaves no room to consider independence from France in short-term, Temaru said.

"We’ve never set up a market economy, but we contented ourselves with this trading economy with all the consequences that one knows," Temaru said.

He also noted that the choice of independence requires the support of "the major part of the population" and that to arrive at such a situation, "France and the international community" have a role to play.

Goff also met Wednesday with French High Commissioner Michel Mathieu. After meeting with Temaru, Tahiti’s president and members of his government held a lunch for Goff and members of the 75-person diplomatic, trade and cultural delegation accompanying him. The delegation arrived from New Caledonia on Wednesday and leaves Thursday for Easter Island.

Goff and Temaru said they planned to increase exchanges between Tahiti and New Zealand in the educational and cultural areas, but particularly the economic field. Goff said: "We are aware that the trade balance is not balanced between the two countries, but we are going to see how we can encourage (French) Polynesia to exporter to New Zealand.

"French Polynesia has learned how to calmly manage political difficulties and we must encourage people to develop links with Polynesia and to invest here," Goff said.

Temaru said he was pleased "to know that New Zealand and other Pacific countries" support French Polynesia. He said he plans to strengthen Tahiti’s ties with neighboring countries and to seek "this year" to become a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum. French Polynesia obtained observer status with the Forum last year.

April 1, 2005

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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