New Caledonia steps up engagement with Pacific businesses

Baptiste Favre represented businesses from New Caledonia at the Private Sector Dialogue Preparatory Meeting in Auckland. Picture: PACIFIC PERISCOPE

AUCKLAND, 15 AUGUST 2018 (PACIFIC PERISCOPE) – Baptiste Favre who represented the Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in New Caledonia (CPME-NC), was in Auckland recently to attend the Pacific Islands Forum led Private Sector Dialogue Preparatory meeting.

Pacific Periscope interviewed  Favre about business in New Caledonia and its business relationships in the Pacific Islands Forum nations as well as about exports to New Zealand.

French Polynesia and New Caledonia are relatively new members of the Pacific Islands Forum. Although they were associate members of PIF in recent years, they were admitted as full members of PIFS in September 2016.

French Polynesia voted to become a full member in 2017 whilst New Caledonia attended for the first time the 48th PIFS Leaders Meeting held in Samoa in September 2017.

New Caledonia was a French Territory with a population of around 250,000 people and a strong political and economic connection to France.  In 1998, the Noumea Accord gave New Caledonia limited autonomy within the French Legal System.  However, the country will have a referendum on November 4 to decide on its independence from France.

Favre’s not-for-profit organisation represents the interests of around 1000 SMEs from diverse sectors including commerce, transport and exports.  Ferroalloys and Nickel are New Caledonia’s biggest exports accounting for around 86 per cent of all exports.  It also exports iron, fuel, scrap metal, shellfish and fish.  New Caledonia’s biggest trading partners are China, South Korea, Japan, Asia and France.  Whilst imports are sourced from France, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and South Korea.

Favre enjoyed the opportunity of meeting with the private sector representatives from the Pacific since New Caledonia became a newly minted member of PIFS.  One of the biggest obstacles for New Caledonia exporting to New Zealand and Australia  Favre said were the strict biosecurity and phytosanitary compliance requirements. Although he was certain their products could reach New Zealand standards, other goods such as plastic tubing used for construction experienced some difficulties.

The effect of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)and climate change on the Pacific private sector were themes discussed at the Private Sector Dialogue preparatory meeting. NCDs might not have a direct effect on companies Mr Favre represents but he takes a regional position also representing the South Pacific Employers Representation in French Polynesia.

“It is interesting to share on common issues such as NCDs and diabetes,” he said.

French Polynesia and Federated States of Micronesia have the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world.

New Caledonia is currently developing local fruit and vegetable industries and supporting local manufacturers to reduce reliance on imported goods but the local economy is also protected through taxation barriers, Favre said.

New Caledonia exported NZD $1.7 million (US$1.1 million) to New Zealand in March 2018 mostly in fruit, vegetables including root crops, machinery and chemical products.

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