Asia and Oceania

Thierry Mathou, Asia and Oceania Director at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, sets out the priorities for French diplomacy in the region.

The region’s balances concern France directly and tangibly in several respects:

  • Peace and security: the Asia and Oceania region is a “French reality”: in addition to the growing presence of our expatriate communities (which have tripled in 20 years to reach around 145,000 people) and our businesses (more than 7,000 subsidiaries of French companies are present in Asia and Oceania, making France the leader in the European Union), the Indo-Pacific region in the wider sense is home to 1.5 million French people living in French Pacific and Indian Ocean communities, as well as 8,000 soldiers making up the French pre-positioned forces in the region. The Indian and Pacific Oceans are home to 93% of the French exclusive economic zone (EEZ). That justifies France’s active involvement in the settlement of regional crises, including: developments in Afghanistan; North Korean nuclear and ballistic ambitions and the Rohingya crisis, as well as in the safety of the main shipping routes and in the fight against terrorism, radicalization and organized crime.
The French presence in figures
  • 8% of French expatriates worldwide
  • More than 7,000 subsidiaries of French companies
  • A diplomatic and consular presence in 25 countries
  • The future of multilateralism: While the region remains very economically diverse, it includes six members of the G20 (Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea), reflecting its increasing importance in global governance. In the context of France’s commitment to a rules- and law-based international order, free movement and free trade, as well as to fair and equitable multilateralism, the Asia and Oceania region is an essential partner and interlocutor. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Japanese, Australian, American and Indian strategies focused on the Indo-Pacific, and the models of political and economic integration promoted by ASEAN, the central location of which is in many ways crucial, are all development models and conceptions of international relations that France cannot ignore. They offer many opportunities for France and for the European Union, but are also challenges which need to be taken into account.
  • A crucial region given global challenges: the growing importance of Asia and Oceania in global trade and investment makes the region a key player, influencing the process of defining standards. It is of key global importance in terms of climate change, concerning for example the trajectory of the major emerging economies in Asia or the role of the small island States of the Pacific, which are particularly threatened, in generating momentum and fostering mobilization. The Asia and Oceania region does of course remain a beneficiary of international development assistance and cooperation policies, but is also increasingly a crucial player with which France should work.
  • Lastly, the region’s demographic weight and influence on the international stage also make it central to improving human rights and the rule of law worldwide, issues where France has particular responsibility and which are a long-term response to the problems of radicalization and internal tensions. The promotion of French language and culture and human exchanges is also a means of promoting our values.

France maintains an extensive diplomatic and consular network in Asia and Oceania, which is currently present in 25 countries. In addition to embassies and consulates, there are also two representation offices; Institut Français and Alliance Française branches; cooperation and development agencies; business, tourism and research support bodies; and French schools. This dense network aims to defend our interests, support our citizens and businesses, and promote our influence and economic attractiveness.

The new Asia and Oceania section on the Ministry’s France Diplomatie website provides an overview of the issues and challenges in this region which is strategic in many ways, with information both country-by-country and by issue, as well as the resources deployed by France. It is aimed equally at informed and specialized readers and at a wider audience interested in the major thrusts of France’s foreign policy. In this respect, it responds to growing demand for transparency of government work.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

June 2018