Papua New Guinea
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Here Come The French

Bienvenue. Papua New Guinea warmly welcomes Monsieur Macron to the Land of Birds of Paradises.

And with the arrival of France President Emmanuel Macron today, following on the heels of China’s Xi Jingping, India’s Sri Narendra Modi, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, New Zealand’s Chris Hipkins and United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, it seems the yellow brick road leads to the Pacific.

The serene beauty of our part of the globe is coming under intense scrutiny. Everyone wants a piece of Pacifica in their GPS system.

But why? Well, the geo political upheavals of the past decade is becoming like the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching into every atoll, island and palm fringed sand bank in the Pacific and unsettling a world order that is shaking the roots of the global powers.

What is in it for the French for their President to hot foot it to PNG? Well, besides its giant oil and gas company Total having a huge stake in the development of hydrocarbons in PNG, France is one of few countries in the world that has maintained diplomatic relations with PNG for the past 47 years.

Trade, which will be among the one of the topics to be discussed, is lopsided. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, France imported Processed Fish ($US15.4M), Coffee ($US7.86M), and Vanilla ($US2.99M).

During the last 26 years the exports of PNG to France have increased at an annualized rate of 6.95 percent, from $US4.87M in 1995 to $US27.9M in 2021, and $US29.28 million last year.

As a trading partner, our relationship has grown significantly over the years, and we should not forget that history tells us that the French were the first to establish Christian missions around PNG.

A Frenchman Marquis de Ray started an ill-fated New France Colony in New Ireland in 1870-1880.

Bougainville was discovered by the navigator of the same name in 1768 and the France Roosters were a regular feature on rugby league tours of PNG since 1977 when their feathers were ruffled by the Kumuls 37-6 in a Test match.

That aside, back to the yellow brick road and its implications on global politics.
There is no secret of the perceived ‘enemy’ in the Pacific.

China is doing all it can to win the hearts and minds of the small and fragile Pacific economies.

Without a doubt, we can say, the Chinese are subtle and seem to be making the US and its allies’ kind of jittery, but we will leave those assumptions aside to the individual citizen because after all we are friends to all and enemies to none as the good old foreign policy says.

So the coconut wireless diplomacy to keep the small islands nations from taking a leap of fate on China’s Belt and Silk Road continues.

The limelight is juicy for our PNG politicians, rubbing shoulders with China’s Xi or India’s Modi seems to be a heart-warming façade for something more globally fractious and sinister – control of minion states and poor island democracies and their mineral and fisheries wealth.

With today’s internet speed and social media, we all know what transpires in global affairs and the comings and goings of world leaders are no longer hidden agendas.

China’s foothold on Solomon Islands – which Australian and American forces re-captured from the Japanese in WWII – has ignited nuclear alarm bells as tensions mount over Solomon’s PM Manasseh Sogovare’s continuous baiting of his former benefactors, Australia and New Zealand.

Macron is not coming to sip French wine on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific.
France still has colonies in the Pacific which have been prickly contentious issues at the UN, especially on decolonisation of Tahiti and New Caledonia.

France also used the Pacific for its nuclear testing until the 90s, most prominently at Mururoa which had angered many Pacific Island nations.

The western democracies are having itchy feet and taking the geopolitics of the Pacific to the next level. Sooner or later, PNG can expect Air Force One to be hovering around PNG skies.

France – PNG relations are the foreign relations between France and PNG.

Official diplomatic relations were established in 1976.

France has an embassy in Port Moresby but Papua New Guinea has no diplomatic representation in France.

Papua New Guinea’s embassy in Brussels covers France.

Merci beaucoup Mr President for joining us today.