The Pacific Islands Forum Group of States have decided to expand their membership and grant full membership to French Polynesia and New Caledonia.
Speaking after the Forum meeting, PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, said the decision could be seen as somewhat controversial, but added that it is vital.
PM O’Neill said the expansion of membership is an issue that all regional groupings must consider not only the Forum but also the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) process.
“The fact of the matter remains that French Polynesia and New Caledonia are important territories in the Pacific region and this is a wise decision,” PM O’Neill said.
“Together they have a population of well over half a million people.
“French Polynesia and New Caledonia trade within our region and their people are Pacific islanders.
“Even though they are French territories their leaders will firmly represent the views of their local populations. Through French Polynesia and New Caledonia we also have another linkage to the European Union.
“In recent years France and the broader European Union have become increasingly important trading partners for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
“We are going through the process of opening a Papua New Guinea embassy in Paris, and we see trade going from our country to the EU through France to be about to have a serious increase.
“In MSG there is the discussion of levels of membership and much of this focuses on the representation of Melanesian people living in the Indonesian Provinces of Papua and West Papua.
“In APEC there is ongoing debate over whether or not to admit India as a Member Economy, and Papua New Guinea is very supportive of India being a part of APEC.
“These are important discussions for any forum and I think we made the right decision in relation to French Polynesia and New Caledonia becoming full members of the Pacific Islands Forum.”