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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 15) – The visiting Chinese ambassador to France stood on the site of the former Chinese consulate office in Papeete Wednesday, saying he hoped Tahiti's Chinese community could reach an agreement so a new consulate can be opened on the same site.

"In October last year, the Papeete court handed down a completely correct ruling," said Ambassador Zhao Jinjun. But recognizing the split within the Chinese community over the court's decision, Zhao added, "We hope that this problem will be solved as soon as possible so that the future embassy consulate can be set up on this site."

Zhao, who arrived last week for a visit until Dec. 16, visited the Papeete office Wednesday of Gaston Flosse, Tahiti's senator in the French Senate. Flosse said during Zhao's visit, "China should become a new trading partner for French Polynesia. What interests us in our relations with China are on the economic level."

Flosse and Zhao spoke to the news media about the Tahitian cultured pearl industry and the lowering of China's import tax on Tahitian pearls that occurred while Flosse was Tahiti's president prior to the Temaru government returning to office in March.

Flosse and Zhao also talked about the Chinese government's Approved Destination Status (ADS) for French Polynesia, which is expected to open Tahiti's door to the Chinese tourist market during the first half of 2006.

Said Flosse, "This approval can only materialize in Paris. China is ready to recognize French Polynesia as an approved country (destination), but Paris would like China to also approve New Caledonia and Réunion. But these two countries do not have the same privileged relations that (French) Polynesia has," Flosse said, referring to the French Pacific overseas territory of New Caledonia and the French Department of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

Flosse said it was not enough for Tahiti to obtain ADS approval. French Polynesia needs to be ready to welcome Chinese tourists, which is not the case today, he claimed. The long-awaited ADS approval would open the door to groups of Chinese visitors to Tahiti and Her Islands instead of just individual Chinese tourists.

The groundwork for Tahiti's tapping into the Chinese tourist market was laid on Dec. 5 in Paris when Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin signed an agreement intended to extend China's ADS to French Polynesia.

Flosse and Zhao also discussed trade between China and French Polynesia. China would become a new supply market for Tahiti, offering quality goods at competitive prices, Flosse said.

Zhao told the media, "China is currently experiencing an extraordinary development and there is a very positive opportunity for cooperation between French Polynesia and China."

December 19, 2005


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