France's Asia-Pacific Focus: Herve Ladsous Comments on French Perceptions and Policies in the Pacific Region

By Ladsous, Herve | New Zealand International Review, September-October 2006 | Go to article overview

France's Asia-Pacific Focus: Herve Ladsous Comments on French Perceptions and Policies in the Pacific Region


Ladsous, Herve, New Zealand International Review


On 26 June 2006, France hosted the second France-Oceania Summit in Paris, which coincided with the opening of the Musee du Quai Branly. The first Summit was held in Papeete three years ago. The second edition provided an opportunity to announce the future action that France, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands states intend to take in this region, which is fundamental to the future of our planet.

In Asia, France intends to develop three strategic partnerships--with China, India and Japan. Its interest derives from the fact that Asia is faced with considerable challenges that have consequences for the whole world, among them demography, trade development, security (including human security from bird flu pandemics etc) and the environment. One of the greatest challenges is security: Asia is the only region in the world with conflicts inherited from the Cold War--on the Korean peninsula, for example, with the dangers of the nuclear escalation and of proliferation.

China is not a 'dragon': it is a giant that already carries significant weight in global affairs and with which France intends to make a long-term commitment. Unlike some other countries, we are not trying to 'contain' China. We hope to draw China into an increasingly meaningful dialogue on a growing number of subjects. We are convinced that it is in everyone's best interests to work this way.

For the last seven to eight years, our dialogue has continued to expand to new subjects: for example, last year, for the first time, we worked on African issues. France has a common history with this continent; it has interests there. Some African countries are going through delicate periods where we are playing a front-line role, like in the Ivory Coast. China, for its part, is becoming more and more active: a summit with African leaders will be held in Peking in October. China is seeking energy resources and primary products; an increase in Chinese immigration to certain countries is evident. This is a very frank dialogue.

Energy issues

A second recent topic in our dialogue concerns energy issues. It is wrong to hold China responsible for the current rise in the price of hydrocarbons. The market was in fact already tight and the arrival of new buyers, whose needs are incontestable, notably China and India, has led to price hikes. We must discuss these issues with China, to see what can be done to meet their needs, and to stress the importance of carefully selecting their partners, taking into consideration the impact of its choice of collaborators on its own image. Solutions must be proposed, including--even if it is an unpopular subject in New Zealand--the nuclear energy option. This is the only energy source that is able to meet their requirements in the right conditions for the environment and without contributing to global warming. We have, therefore, proposed third generation reactors to China. Other topics include multilateral issues, United Nations reform, governance in relation to the environment.

In Chinese, our bilateral relationship is described as 'intimate'. As recently as the beginning of this year, we launched a new experiment by sending 400 young French nationals to China, and next year 400 Chinese nationals will be welcomed to France. These are not student exchanges but young personalities with a bright future in the political, economic and cultural sectors. In the long-term, they should translate into real and fruitful exchanges between our two civil societies.

We are aware that we must bear in mind all aspects of the increase in Chinas power, including the military aspects. However, we are certain of the need for this dialogue.

Indian take-off

In the next ten to fifteen years, the population of India will overtake that of China. Its economic take-off has been slower, but it is on the way. An example to illustrate the current transformation: for a long time, European governments have tried to convince the Indian government to purchase Airbus airplanes and we have achieved this to a degree; but at the same time, at the last Bourget Air Show, 190 Airbuses were sold to three private Indian companies! …

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