News Item

Strengthening French Connections

News 17 Aug 2018

In the two years since New Caledonia and French Polynesia were admitted as full members of the Pacific Islands Forum, Baptiste Faure, Secretary General of the SMEs - Small and Medium Enterprises of New Caledonia (CPME NC), is increasingly confident French interests will strengthen with the rest of its Pacific neighbours.

Originally from the French city of Lyon, Baptiste attained a Master’s Degree in Political Science before working in an advocacy capacity representing the interests of the private sector in Paris and Brussels. He says he always had a desire to discover the Pacific, and with the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the Pacific region, he moved across the globe four years ago with no regrets.

Based in the New Caledonia capital of Noumea, he heads a significant private sector organisation which represents around 1000 SMEs from various business sectors.

“It’s a voluntary membership and we have around a thousand individual members representing companies and employers,” says Baptiste, who represented New Caledonia at the 2018 Pacific Wave Forum in Auckland hosted by PCF on August 6-7.

“We help advise our members on how to run their business and promote private sector initiatives. There are a lot of opportunities to network which enable us to share experiences and learn from others.”

New Caledonia is developing local horticulture and agriculture industries and assisting local manufacturers to reduce reliance on imported goods. It exported NZD $1.7 million (US$1.1 million) to New Zealand in March 2018 in fruit, vegetables including root crops, machinery and chemical products.

Nickel and ferroalloys, referring to various alloys of iron with a high proportion of one or more other elements such as manganese, aluminium, or silicon, are biggest exports, with more than three-quarters of all exports. Imports are sourced from France, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

At the 2017 Pacific Islands Forum in Samoa, New Caledonia attended as a full member of the Forum. Baptiste says all French interests across the Pacific will benefit.

“We have created one common organisation called the South Pacific Employers Confederation, which was created with our partners in French Polynesia and now includes Wallis and Futuna,” he says of the French territory between Tuvalu to the north and Fiji to the south.

“Despite our differences, when the private sector is engaged with each other we found out how much common ground we have. Being able to fully participate is quite new, but we are willing and able to play our role in building stronger relations with our Pacific partners.”

Baptiste says the key theme of tackling the growth of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is relevant to all Pacific nations.

“New Caledonia has among the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world,” he says.

“So it’s important to share on common issues such as NCDs and diabetes.”