France and Vanuatu

Political relations

A former administrating power, France maintains regular political dialogue with Vanuatu as it is located near New Caledonia.

The French humanitarian response to Hurricane Pam was swift. Shortly after the hurricane hit, France sent a first reconnaissance flight and an assessment team to Port Vila with humanitarian and communication equipment cargo. France provided more than €2 million to the humanitarian efforts to help Vanuatu, transporting more than 114 tonnes of humanitarian cargo and deploying nearly 300 military (New Caledonia Armed Forces or FANC) and emergency workers.

After Hurricane Donna hit in May 2017, which also hit New Caledonian coasts, France immediately matched the aid given by Australia and New Zealand with a view to financing air surveillance, reconnaissance and assessment operations as well as ensuring the transport of humanitarian cargo. France’s action was coordinated with Australia and New Zealand as set out in the FRANZ Agreement (France, Australia, New Zealand), which establishes regional coordination arrangements in the South Pacific in the event of a natural disaster.

Visits

Philippe Germain, President of the New Caledonian Government, visited Port Vila on 1 April 2016 with New Caledonian business leaders in order to support business activities and bolster cooperation in the area of education in particular.

On 25 January 2017, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, met with the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Leingkone, and Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah Nawalu, as well as two Members of Parliament.

Economic relations

While trade between France and Vanuatu is weak (€6 million in 2015) because the market is small, France remains one of the main foreign investors behind Australia, Japan and New Zealand. There have been investments made in the agri-food sector, the banking sector, water and sanitation, energy distribution and real estate. Metropolitan France is the leading supplier excluding neighbouring countries.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

For several years, France has mainly taken action in the area of education and to support Francophonie. France has introduced a grants programme and support for the creation of Economic and Social Administration studies in partnership with Université de Toulouse-Capitole. The most recent joint commission of the regional cooperation agreement supported these priorities providing more than €300,000, half of which was financed by the State and the remainder by the New Caledonian Government.

France provided funds for a technical expert who was appointed to monitor the Economic and Social Administration bachelor’s programme and the development of the Université Nationale de Vanuatu, which was inaugurated on 17 February 2017. The Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency, AFD) is backing this project with €700,000 in funds and is also allocating that same amount to a cooperation project between the city of Dumbéa in New Caledonia and Port Vila.

France is the second leading contributor to the budget of the Pacific Community and directly finances several projects. One of them is the RESCCUE project on the integrated management of coastal areas, which received €6 million in funds, with the northern part of Efate island as a pilot location.

Other cooperation

Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu

Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu are governed by a cooperation agreement for France, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Concluded in 2002 and renewed in 2006 and 2010, this agreement was renewed a fourth time on 23 February 2015 and focuses on economic development, education, the employability of young people, technology transfer and research, culture and sports, health, good governance and decentralized cooperation. It is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Pacific Fund) and the New Caledonia Government and its governance ensured by a joint France/New Caledonia/Vanuatu committee which meets once a year. In 2016, for the first time in history, it was held entirely in French as the Vanuatu participants were all French speakers.

Following a visit from Vanuatu’s Prime Minister to New Caledonia on 3 March 2017, the signature of a letter of intent regarding a joint cooperation plan rounded out this arrangement. It strengthened the partnership in a wide range of areas such as Francophonie, taxation, civil aviation, regional planning and maritime transport.

Bilateral military cooperation

As regards defence, cooperation projects were conducted by the New Caledonian Armed Forces (FANC) with Vanuatu focused on monitoring Vanuatu’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), training and civil assistance, with Castor operations to renovate public buildings. The last exercise took place in May 2017. An agreement in the form of an exchange of letters on the status of French forces in Vanuatu was signed in Port Vila on 6 and 7 July 2011.

Updated: 7 July 2017

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