Vanuatu, New Caledonia Hold Bilateral Talks

Discussions focus on expanding agreement beyond transport to trade, health, education

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept 30, 2016) – Bilateral talks between Vanuatu and New Caledonia were held in Port Vila Thursday when Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and the Minister for Infrastructure and Public Utilities Jotham Napat met with a heavy delegation from New Caledonia, led by the Minister of Transport, Gilbert Thuyenon.

The talks centered on the existing bilateral air and sea transport services agreement between the near neighbors but also covered Vanuatu’s proposal for a new bilateral agreement to cover other sectors including trade, health and education, the Prime Minister told Buzz 96FM’s Kizzy Kalsakau.

“Some issues under the air service agreement have been discussed many times in the past but still not concluded.

They include maintenance, airspace, transport in general including maritime boundary was also part of our discussions,” PM Salwai says.

Vanuatu and New Caledonia share the same border and are close neighbors and Vanuatu is hopeful that with New Caledonia now a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) progress can be possible.

“It’s good that they have become full members because New Caledonia is one of the territories that has progressed a lot in development in many areas including politics and membership would fulfill plans by PIF to address regional integration, despite their status of not being an independent country.

“Issues affecting the world and the Pacific as a whole like climate change, health issues, and education affect the community of the Pacific as a whole so it was good they became full members so they can be part of the discussions on tackling the issues and share what we have to help each other.” Vanuatu invited New Caledonia to sit down and discuss the outstanding issues and areas for bilateral relations such as in the business and trade sector.

The Prime Minister says tourism is one industry that is important to Vanuatu and the country wants to see more tourists visits Vanuatu from New Caledonia.

“In southern Vanuatu on Tanna we have Yasur volcano that many people want to see and if can get more direct flights between New Caledonia and Tanna this would assist us immensely. “Now that we do not have visa requirement for travel between Vanuatu and New Caledonia it would be good if Vanuatu people can go and find employment in New Caledonia under an agreement that would be mutually beneficial to both parties.” On the New Caledonian government becoming a member also of MSG, PM Salwai believes it would be a good thing: “if it becomes a member then it can pay the membership fee because it is a government.”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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