Diplomat says ‘fully-fledged’ embassy in Samoa will offer Paris greater clout

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks in Noumea’s central square (Photo: Supplied/Nic Maclellan)

A French diplomat says having an embassy in Samoa will enable France to play a more central role on issues that arise in the Pacific, such as security and climate change.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for the first French embassy in Polynesia during his trip to the Pacific last week.

“France and Samoa share the same values of democracy, the rules-based order and the protection of global commons,” the French government said in a statement.

“It is in this spirit more than 50 years after the establishment of their diplomatic relations, that France and Samoa have decided to open a new page of their common history with the establishment of a French Embassy in Apia.”

The embassy in Samoa, it said, would “contribute to strengthening the ties between Samoa and the French territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis et Futuna”.

It is also expected to allow France to have greater engagement with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), based in Apia.

France’s top diplomat in New Zealand, Laurence Beau, told RNZ Pacific that Paris was “fully aware of Samoa’s importance in the region… because it is the headquarters for SPREP and many UN agencies”.

France has embassies in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Beau said Paris was working with the Samoan government on the next steps before a formal date for the opening of the embassy was announced.

“When you have a fully fledged embassy somewhere you have presence, so you have more ability to develop economic and other relationships.

“Being based in Samoa would definitely help strengthen economic ties and people-to-people [relationships] and other things.

“For example, we have the French forces based in French Polynesia, we can have some cooperation of any sort that depending on the will and the needs expressed by the Samoan authorities.”

France will open an “office for expertise” in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in addition to its embassy following Macron’s visit to the country last week.

Macron and PNG Prime Minister James Marape agreed to the opening of the office where France will run all their projects in the country.

“France is a big nation and we did not take lightly his arrival into our country,” Marape said.

“The key outcome of this meeting was… a statement we were making to the world that forests of this earth must be managed, preserved and harvested in the right manner.” Marape said another project was to build a new international consensus “that reconciles the fight against poverty and the global warming and its consequences for biodiversity.