Pato meets President of France

Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, Rimbink Pato, briefed French President Emmanuel Macron on Pacific issues when they met in New Caledonia on 5 May 2018.

Minister Pato was the special envoy of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at a meeting of Pacific leaders with the President in Noumea.

President Macron led the discussion on a wide range of regional and global issues, including climate change and biodiversity.

Minister Pato told the French leader that the Pacific welcomed his statement in Sydney last week affirming the commitment of France to a rules-based international order.

The statement sent a clear message about the strong commitment by France to the security, stability and prosperity of the peoples of the Pacific, the Minister said.

“I told the President that we will do our best to ensure an outcome affirming the same principle at the APEC leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby in November, and that we support agreements in harmony with the rules of the World Trade Organisation,” Minister Pato said.

The discussion took place at a private dinner in Noumea organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Australia and New Zealand were represented at ministerial level.

Minister Pato raised the topic of a visa waiver for all Pacific Island citizens to enter EU countries, and it was well received.

Minister Pato said the President’s statements were well received, particularly as the French Republic would be the main Pacific connection in the European Union after Brexit.

Minister Pato and others received an assurance from President Macron that he would support the unity of the Africa-Caribbean Pacific (ACP) group of States when he met with Francophone countries in Africa, rather than back a reported African Union advocacy of a split from the ACP.

The PNG foreign minister also welcomed the statement by President Macron that he would support a more flexible and accessible method for the ACP to apply for EU funding.

“To see President Macron support the unity of the ACP shows the genuine commitment to the Pacific by France,” Minister Pato said.

Minister Pato also welcomed President Macron’s positive reception to his recommendation that France direct its officials on the board of the Asia Development Bank to support a significant increase in funding for the Pacific in connection with climate change mitigation, adaption and resilience needs.

At the dinner, President Macron said he intended to visit the Pacific every year, a statement welcomed by the Pacific representatives.

“The president was passionate about the Pacific and assisting with climate change issues,” Minister Pato said.

Earlier, Minister Pato addressed a meeting attended by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Pacific ministers and leaders, SCP officials, and UK and EU diplomats.

 The four hour discussion, closed to the media, focussed on climate change and biodiversity, topics that those present said were closely and inextricably interlinked.

In his statement to the meeting, Minister Pato advised that PNG had third biggest rainforest globally, vast tuna stocks, and a biodiversity unmatched in virtually every other nation worldwide.

Papua New Guinea had adopted policies to help conserve the forests, the biodiversity and the fisheries, he said.

Minister Pato earlier had a private bilateral meeting with President Philippe Germain of New Caledonia where they discussed how New Caledonia and the French territories in the Pacific could be a point of contact for all Pacific States to address France and the EU.

President Germain briefed Minister Pato on the forthcoming referendum on New Caledonia’s status. They also agreed to advance a plan to make French language courses available in New Caledonia for PNG citizens.

The high level and public emphasis by France of an increased commitment to the Pacific, has come after similar announcements by the United Kingdom in London last month, by New Zealand earlier in the year, and in Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper launched last year.

Press release