Relations between France and New Zealand are excellent. Since the New Zealand Prime Minister’s visit to Paris in 2003, which injected new impetus into cooperation, exchanges have increased.
The joint declaration signed in Paris on 8 November 2013 by France’s and New Zealand’s Foreign Ministers, following the one signed on 9 September 2011 in Auckland, established four main areas of cooperation between our countries: the centenary of the First World War, the climate and the environment, the Pacific and regional integration of French communities and the United Nations Security Council.
The Embassy of France in New Zealand assists the community of 4,400 French nationals residing in New Zealand (9,000 total including people with dual citizenship and residents who are not recorded). More than 60,000 French visitors and tourists visit New Zealand every year, half of them from New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Relations between New Zealand and New Caledonia have strengthened owing to the appointment and action of a New Caledonian delegate in the Embassy of France in Wellington since November 2012. His main role is to represent, promote and sustain New Caledonia’s interests in New Zealand, with his responsibilities covering the political, economic, cultural and education, and scientific and technical sectors.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited France in September 2013 and met with the President of the French Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Economy and Finance. Mr Key also attended the opening of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The New Zealand Foreign Minister visited France in November 2013 and in March 2015.
The French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs visited New Zealand in September 2011 and participated in the Post-Forum Dialogue of the Pacific Islands Forum. France, a partner of States in the region, reaffirmed its commitment in Oceania and its support for the growing integration of French Pacific communities in their regional environment. The Minister of Sport visited New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup in 2011. The Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance visited New Zealand in November 2013 to prepare the centenary commemorations of the First World War.
Relations are strengthening in the Pacific where France is present through its three communities: New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis-and-Futuna. During a visit in July 2012, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, reaffirmed the excellent relations between his country and New Caledonia; he could make another visit in 2016. He also visited French Polynesia in December 2013.
The first official visits of Caledonia’s and Polynesia’s presidents of governments to New Zealand in July 2005 sent a strong signal with regard to regional integration of our communities. In 2006, New Zealand also supported the accession of New Caledonia and French Polynesia to the status of associated member and that of Wallis and Futuna to the status of observer in the Pacific Islands Forum, the political and cooperation organisation of the region.
France’s and New Zealand’s objectives converge in Oceania. France would like to step up integration of its Pacific communities in their regional and political environment that supports New Zealand. The France-Oceania Summits, held annually since 2003 help to develop this policy.. The fourth one took place in November 2015 in Paris with President Hollande in attendance.
For the past ten years, bilateral trade flows have amounted to an average of €800 million a year, with imports and exports about equal in number. However, the importance of this partnerships is not the same for the two countries: New Zealand ranks 59th among our customers and 64th among our suppliers and France ranks 24th among New Zealand’s customers and 11th among its suppliers. The trade surplus, which amounted to approximately €100 million in 2014 and €250 million in 2015 in France’s favour, placed New Zealand 28th in the ranking of bilateral surpluses for France.
Our exports are mainly industrial and dominated by "major contracts", particularly in the aviation industry. While they totalled €497 million in 2014, they posted a new record in the first ten months of 2015 of €597 million. These exports mainly consist of manufactured products, particularly capital goods; mechanical equipment; electrical, electronic and IT equipment; and transport equipment (automobiles, airplanes). French agrifood and pharmaceutical industries also performed well in the New Zealand market.
Our imports, mainly agricultural and agrifood, have ranged from €320 to 360 million since 2005. New Zealand’s exports are concentrated in two main sectors: agricultural, forestry, fishing and aquaculture products and agrifood industry products (meat and dairy products). However, the range of New Zealand exports to our country has gradually become more diverse.
French is the most popular foreign language taught in the New Zealand education system (47,000 students), despite the growing popularity of Spanish and certain Asian languages. Every year, some 30 young people from New Zealand discover our country and our language as language assistants. Working Holiday visas for people aged 15 to 30 enable young people from both our countries to work or reside in the country visited for a maximum period of one year. For young French people, New Zealand is a very attractive destination since more than 8,000 of them visit the country every year. Bilingual French-speaking sections in Auckland and three Alliances Françaises (in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch) help generate interest in learning French in New Zealand.
In the cultural sector, partnerships are active in the areas of literature, with two writer residencies in Menton and Wellington, film (French Film Festival), as well as creative technology and contemporary art (artist residencies). Cooperation in sport is also important, with rugby cementing the connection between our two countries.
The New Zealand-France Friendship Fund, administered by an independent bilateral board, selects projects every year that support and promote cultural dialogue between our two countries (cultural, primary education, sport, university exchanges) and grants an excellence scholarship to students who would like to pursue their studies in the partner country.
At New Zealand’s request, the French government returned the Maori heads from French museums. An initial ceremony was held in May 2011 at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington upon the return of the first head from the Musée de Rouen with a delegation from the Senate in attendance. The other Toi Moko heads were returned in January 2012.
Scientific cooperation between the two countries was consistently strong, the areas with high standards of excellence being very compatible (agronomics, biotechnologies, marine resources, environment and biodiversity, earth sciences and natural hazards, nanotechnologies). Scientific exchanges are supported in the joint scientific Dumont d’Urville programme Hubert Curien programme, financing equally the mobility of researchers between the two countries (some 50 projects since 2005), which celebrated its ten year anniversary last year.
Research in the Pacific on specific problems of the region is also encouraged by France via the Economic, Social and Cultural Cooperation Fund for the Pacific (two to four projects shared between New Zealand and French communities of the Pacific are backed every year by the Pacific Fund).
Bilateral military relations continue to grow stronger benefiting the whole of Oceania. The most recent political-military consultations were held in March 2016 in Wellington. Regular visits of public figures enabled high-level contact between our forces in the Pacific and the New Zealand armed forces. Our armies cooperate on a regular basis particularly in the implementation of the FRANZ (France, Australia, New Zealand) Agreement during emergency and humanitarian interventions in the event of natural disasters in the region, as was the case to assist Tonga in 2014, Vanuatu in 2015, and Fiji in 2016, all three of which were hit by hurricanes.
The brotherhood of arms forged during the First World War is still very much alive. An agreement on shared memory was signed during a visit by Prime Minister Helen Clark in June 2004. Commemorations of the centenary of the First World War play an important role in our bilateral relationship. They pay tribute to the 106,000 New Zealand soldiers who fought in the war, 18,500 of whom were killed and 41,500 injured. This could be seen in the visit of the Minister responsible for Veterans to New Zealand in November 2013 and of his counterpart to France in October 2013. The commemoration of the Battle of the Somme will be an important part of 2016, with its climax on 15 September in Longueval. In addition, France is working on plans to build a commemorative monument in the National War Memorial Park in Wellington (an architecture competition will be launched in April 2016). The monument will be inaugurated in 2018.