French, English-speaking Polynesia grow closer

22nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

SUVA, Aug 22 (AFP) - The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum is looking to strengthen ties with French Polynesia in a move that could eventually see the territory become an associate member of the grouping, it said Monday.

SUVA, Aug 22 (AFP) - The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum is looking to strengthen ties with French Polynesia in a move that could eventually see the territory become an associate member of the grouping, it said Monday.

French Polynesia was granted observer status at the forum last year but there are moves to introduce associate memberships to allow closer cooperation, forum secretary general Greg Urwin said.

Urwin will be on a forum mission to French Polynesia this week to discuss plans for closer cooperation between the territory and the forum.

"Associate membership would upgrade the ability of the territories to take part in the councils of the forum, the inner meeting of the leaders for example," he said.

Only independent states are accepted for full membership.

There are also plans for discussions on the possible extension of a Pacific Islands free trade area to French Polynesia and another South Pacific French territory, New Caledonia.

"Of course, there are issues with their relationship with France. So no one is pretending this is going to be a particularly quick or easy thing," Urwin told AFP.

"On the other hand it's something that needs to be tried because there are some gains for the forum."

Forum leaders are expected to discuss whether to create the new associate membership status at their meeting in Port Moresby in October.

The forum groups Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

As well as the two French territories, Tokelau and East Timor have observer status.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, French Polynesia, Pacific Islands Forum, Greg Urwin

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