Interview with Dr Yves LAFOY, Official Representative of New Caledonia to New Zealand
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FNZCCI member, Yves LAFOY is the Official Representative of New Caledonia to New Zealand.
Can you introduce yourself and what you are doing?
Born in France, I completed a PhD in Pacific Marine sciences and worked in Japan and Fiji before being recruited by New Caledonia in 1991 as a scientific expert in the fields of environmental and marine sciences. Based in Nouméa for 18 years, I held senior positions with the Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, the national Geological Survey, and, since 2005, with the Department of Regional Cooperation and External Relations.
Since 1994, I have been representing New Caledonia at numerous fora in the Pacific region, and gain a specialized knowledge and experience of the region’s geopolitical landscape.
In 2003 and 2011, I was sent on secondments in Paris to the “Ecole Nationale d’Administration” (ENA) and to the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, respectively, to prepare for exercising responsibilities in the sphere of International relations, as mentioned under provision of Article 3.2.1 of the Noumea Accord.
In 2009, I was seconded to New Zealand to investigate and implement avenues of bilateral cooperation with New Zealand.
In November 2012, I was appointed “Official Representative of New Caledonia to New Zealand” when New Caledonia opened its first overseas diplomatic representation within the French Embassy in Wellington. This new position is the outcome of an agreement signed in January 2012 between France and New Caledonia, which paves the way for New Caledonia to establish its own Diplomatic network within the Pacific region.
My wife is a New Zealander, and I am a father of two bi-national children.
I show strong interest in the history and culture of indigenous people, especially the Basque people, the oldest known European indigenous group.
I practiced judo for 16 years, and was part of a Basque choir for 8 years.
What is the role of the New Caledonia Delegation in New Zealand?
In my capacity of Official Representative of New Caledonia to New Zealand”, my task consists in steering the New Caledonia Delegation. My role as such is twofold:
- On a bilateral basis, I focus on strengthening political dialogue between New Caledonia and New Zealand, and intensifying cooperation in the fields of economy and trade, culture and education, and science and innovation;
- On a multilateral basis, my role consists in overseeing New Caledonia’s involvement with the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and its member countries, bearing in mind that Pacific Leaders at their annual summit in Pohnpei last September, accepted French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full Members of the PIF.
What are your objectives for the next few years?
For 2017 and 2018, the New Caledonia Delegation’s priority will consist in implementing the NC-NZ Joint Cooperation Plan, signed on September 10 2016, thus concretizing the two visits in New Zealand, by the President of the Government of New Caledonia, Mr. Philippe Germain. The Plan includes six areas of bilateral common interests, e.g., economy and trade, education, health, sport, environment, and research and innovation.
The implementation of the Plan will encompass:
supporting New Caledonia’s companies in their efforts to prospect the New Zealand market,
facilitating the development of joint ventures, as well as the strengthening of skills transfer and investment in New Caledonia,
promoting New Caledonia as an attractive tourist destination,
continuing to promote New Caledonia’s economic appeal to New Zealand government agencies and companies interested in the New Caledonian market,
intensifying exchanges with the New Zealand ministries and agencies on the political and economic implications of the admission of New Caledonia as a full member of the FIP.
The strengthening of the partnership between the New Caledonia Delegation and the FNZCCI will be illustrated this year by an intervention by the Official Representative of New Caledonia to New Zealand at the "French Festival" (Auckland, 26 August) which will, among other themes, cover existing trade relations between New Caledonia, French Polynesia and New Zealand, as well as opportunities to increase trade between these three countries.
What is the purpose of your partnership with the FNZCCI?
The New Caledonia Delegation in New Zealand has joined the French - New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (FNZCCI) to grow New Caledonia’s visibility to New Zealand’s exporters in the Pacific region. As a member of the FNZCCI, the New Caledonia Delegation will:
increase its professional networking;
gain direct access to the chamber’s members list;
be more effective in promoting New Caledonia’s economic appeal in New Zealand;
be in a better position to contribute to the chamber’s "Pacific Vision";
benefit from preferential training fees with the Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA).
This membership, which makes it possible to raise New Caledonia Delegation’s profile from an economic and commercial point of view, is complementary to the creation, in February 2016, of the "NC-NZ Business Club" launched by the New Caledonia Delegation to help boost bilateral trade and economic exchanges. The Club’s members include the FNZCCI’s representatives, together with about 20 French entrepreneurs based in Auckland, either doing business with New Caledonia or willing to do so in a near future.
The Chamber’s membership and the creation of the NC-NZ Business Club are part of the implementation of the "Economy and Trade" component of the NC-NZ Joint Cooperation Plan. Joining the chamber also makes it possible to formalize the New Caledonia Delegation’s role which, during the last two years, was one of the guests of honor of the two “After 5" events, co-organized by the FNZCCI and the New Zealand-Pacific Business Council. Both presentations untitled “New Caledonia’s specific economy: presentation and focus on the infrastructure sector" and "New Caledonia: Political and Economic Context", aimed at promoting the "Economic potential of the French Pacific Territories”.
How can you describe the exchanges between New Caledonia and New Zealand?
An overseas country and territory (OCT) of the EU, New Caledonia’s imports to the EU in 2015 totaled 308 M NZ$, while exports amounted to 1.85 Bn NZ$.
In the Pacific region, New Caledonia has the third highest GDP per capita (45,230 NZ$, 2015) (after Australia and NZ).
New Caledonia is New Zealand’s closest neighbor and as such both countries have good diplomatic relations, as illustrated last year with the two visits in New Zealand, by the President of the Government of New Caledonia, Mr. Philippe Germain.
With regards to the bilateral relationship, trade and economic exchanges were largely in favor of New Zealand in 2016. Last year, New Zealand exported 140 M NZ$ to New Caledonia, with imports reaching 5.2 M NZ$. In 2016, New Zealand represented for New Caledonia:
the seventh-ranked supplier of goods,
the second largest supplier of food products,
the number three tourist destination for New Caledonian residents,
the number three destination for New Caledonian real estate investments.
Several initiatives are currently being carried out by the Government of New Caledonia to reduce the trade imbalance, such as:
- the New Caledonia guidelines for export support;
- New Caledonia Tourism Development Strategy 2025;
- and the New Caledonia-New Zealand Joint Cooperation Plan, which aims to set out the framework and objectives of a long-term bilateral trade relation between the two countries, with a focus on facilitating joint ventures/ economic partnerships for New Zealand companies interested in the New Caledonian market.