French President Macron to visit PNG

Jul 20, 2023 | Blog, News

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to embark on an unprecedented tour of Melanesia, including visits to Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, as well as discussions in New Caledonia. The visit comes amid France’s efforts to assert its role in the Asia-Pacific region, especially with the escalating geopolitical competition between the United States and China.

In New Caledonia, Macron will engage in discussions with political leaders from the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) and anti-independence formations to finalize a new political statute to replace the 1998 Noumea Accord. The French government aims to reach an agreement between supporters and opponents of independence by September, leading to changes in the French Constitution in 2024 and local elections in May.

Despite his re-election, President Macron faces political challenges within France, with a weakened standing in public opinion polls due to several contentious policies. Additionally, the French government must garner broad political support to change the Constitution and introduce a new political statute for New Caledonia.

Following the discussions in New Caledonia, Macron will become the first French President to visit Vanuatu, highlighting cultural connections and discussing China’s role in the region. He will also make a brief stopover in Papua New Guinea, emphasising France’s support for climate action and biodiversity while potentially enhancing French investments in the PNG resources sector.

Macron’s Indo-Pacific strategy, which proposes an “India-Australia-France” axis to counter China’s growing influence, has faced criticism for its mismatch between rhetoric and reality. The strategy was designed without the involvement of local politicians, raising questions about its credibility. While Macron was initially scheduled to visit Wallis and Futuna, domestic crises at home have shortened his tour.

Amid calls for self-determination in New Caledonia and a desire to extend diplomatic and security relations with Melanesian countries, France is focusing on discussions on climate change and development funding during the tour.