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French Polynesia

Flag of French Polynesia

French Polynesia country brief

Overview

French Polynesia is a French overseas territory with a high level of autonomy under the terms of the 2004 Organic Law (2004-192). It comprises five archipelagos (Society, Tuamotu, Marquesas, Gambier and Australs). French Polynesia is spread over more than 5.3 million square kilometres, approximately the size of Europe. It is located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 6,000 kilometres east of Australia and 7,500 kilometres west of Chile.

French Polynesia's main island, Tahiti, became a French protectorate in 1842, and France took possession of French Polynesia as a whole in 1880. The population in 2017 was 283,007.

Political overview

French Polynesians are French citizens with the right to live anywhere in France. They are entitled to vote in local and French national elections.

The President of the French Republic is French Polynesia's Head of State and is represented by a High Commissioner.

French Polynesia was designated a French overseas territory in 1946 and given a Territorial Assembly on 25 October 1946. French Polynesia's constitutional status, its institutions, legal powers and relationship with France is defined by statute which has been amended several times since 1946 by the French Government, and most recently in 2004.

French Polynesia is a parliamentary democracy, with a 57-seat Assembly and an executive headed by a President (akin to the Speaker), elected by a simple majority vote within the Assembly for a five-year term. Assembly members also serve five-year terms.

French Polynesia uses its own flag, seal and anthem in conjunction with French national symbols.

On 30 April 2023, the Tavini Huia’atira party won an absolute majority in the Assembly of French Polynesia, taking 38 of the 57 seats in the territorial government elections. Tavini’s presidential candidate Moetai Brotherson MP was formally elected President at an Assembly meeting on 12 May 2023.

In May 2013, French Polynesia was reinscribed on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Economic overview

French Polynesia's economy has faced a number of challenges since the end of nuclear testing in 1996, due largely to the country's limited resources, options for diversification, and its isolation. After recent years of increased economic activity and expansion into new sectors, it has experienced a major contraction due to the impact of COVID-19 on international tourism, which remains a mainstay of the economy.

In response to the pandemic, French Polynesia’s Government passed a number of laws making it easier for businesses to obtain credit, reducing constraints on employment and boosted job safeguard and social security payments.

Financial transfers from France (approximately $2 billion per annum) have traditionally made up around 30 per cent of French Polynesia's GDP. Of these transfers, approximately half is for the delivery of the responsibilities of the Territorial Government, while the remainder is for French State-based responsibilities such as defence, justice, security and higher education and disbursements to municipal governments.

Foreign relations

French Polynesia maintains close ties with other Pacific island countries and territories, particularly its Polynesian neighbours through the Polynesian Leaders' Group, trading partnerships and other links.

French Polynesia is a member of the Pacific Community (SPC), the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO).

In 2016, French Polynesia was admitted as a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Bilateral relations

In May 2021, the Australian Government established its first Consulate-General in Papeʻete. Claire Scott was appointed as Australia's first Consul-General and commenced operations on 4 May 2021 (Australian Eastern Standard Time). Previously, the Australian Consul-General in Noumea was accredited to French Polynesia.

Foreign Minister Senator the Hon Penny Wong visited French Polynesia in October 2022, where she officially opened our Consulate-General in Papeʻete. She also met High Commissioner of the French Republic Mr Éric Spitz and then-French Polynesian President Mr Édouard Fritch.

Visa waiver arrangements negotiated by Australia and France in 1998, and a working holiday-maker arrangement with France from 1 January 2004, have also been beneficial in promoting two-way exchange.
 

Foreign Minister Senator Wong at a podium, three flags on either side of her, presenting to a group of people seated in chairs.

Foreign Minister Wong visited French Polynesia in October 2022, where she officially opened the Australian Consulate-General in Papeʻete © DFAT.

Trade and Investment

More information and statistics on Australia's trade and economic relationship with French Polynesia can be found on the trade and investment factsheet.

Distance and transport costs are limiting factors for international trade between Australia and French Polynesia. An ongoing program of tax reform, involving the phased elimination of a number of French Polynesian import duties in favour of a value-added tax, should make market access conditions more attractive in the longer term, although French/EU exporters will probably continue to enjoy certain practical advantages (including existing relationships and a common language and legal system).

People-to-people links

From 2009-2015, Australia awarded 24 Australia Awards scholarships to French Polynesian students. Although French Polynesians students are no longer eligible for Australia Awards scholarships there continues to be regular two-way educational exchanges. This includes through the New Colombo Plan, which has seen three scholars and 111 Mobility Student Grant recipients travel to French Polynesia since 2019.

Australia has been a strong supporter of the International Oceanian Documentary Film Festival (FIFO) in French Polynesia for many years, with a high-level of participation from Australian entrants and guests.

High-level visits and meetings

Visitor information

Australians travelling to French Polynesia are advised to consult the Smartraveller travel advice.

  • 19-20 October 2022: Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, visited French Polynesia where she met with French High Commissioner Mr Eric Spitz and then-French Polynesian President Mr Édouard Fritch.
  • 15 October 2021: Then French Polynesian Minister for Families and Social Welfare Ms Isabelle Sachet participated in the Pacific Women’s Leaders meeting co-chaired by then Foreign Minister Payne.
  • August 2019: The Hon Greg Hunt MP, then Minister for Health, visited French Polynesia for the Pacific Heads of Health Meeting.
  • June 2019: Minister for Public Administration, Energy and the Digital Economy, Téa Frogier, visited Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra.
  • July 2017: meeting between the Vice President of French Polynesia, Mr Teva Rohrfritsch and Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, then Minister for International Development and the Pacific, in Noumea
  • March 2011: The Hon Richard Marles MP, then Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, visited French Polynesia where he met then-French High Commissioner, Mr Richard Didier and then-President of the Assembly Gaston Tong Sang.
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