Pacific Cooperation Foundation : Strengthening French Connections Across the Pacific

As President of the French Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand, French-born and raised Thibault Beaujot (pictured right) is embracing the opportunity to live in a country which is now his home. 

“Coming from the south of France, where rugby is very popular, I was thrilled to be able to go to the test matches between France and the All Blacks in Auckland and Wellington in June,” he says.

“The All Blacks were too strong in both games, but I know France has a habit of special performances in the World Cup and I hope they can rise to the occasion again at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.”

The French Chamber of Commerce is a bilateral organisation, assisting French companies to do business in New Zealand as well as assisting New Zealand businesses in France and French Pacific territories. Thibault is the first to admit the challenges of breaking into markets in the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

“French Pacific territories are quite regulated, and the language can be a barrier, but there are New Zealand companies like Fonterra and other businesses which do very well in those territories. With a population of more than half a million people combined, those markets represent a big potential for New Zealand exporters” says Thibault.

“They’re well placed because New Zealand has a reputation for quality goods, which are in demand.” 
“On the other hand, New Zealand markets represent a fantastic opportunity for French Pacific based companies willing to grow internationally. Their exports to New Zealand are still quite small.”

Statistics from March this year shows a total trade of goods of $135.2 million in exports (mainly beef, ships, dairy, iron and steel) to French Polynesia and $142.8 million to New Caledonia (mainly dairy products, beef, ships, and iron), compared to $3.3 million of imports (pearls, aluminium and scrap metal) from the territories.

One of its objectives is to establish a Mission from New Zealand to New Caledonia by 2020.

“Last year we received seven French Polynesian companies for a week-long trade mission. They were looking for New Zealand markets in which to sell cosmetics, food products and consumer goods. The good thing about our organisation is that we’re bilateral. It helps both sides come to grips with the barriers and regulations.” 

Thibault, who has also lived and worked in Canada, admits at a business level he’s pleased New Caledonia voted against independence from France in the referendum held on November 5. 

“France values its territories in the South Pacific and we were happy to see the people vote to remain, which provides economic stability,” he says. 

Upon living in New Zealand, Thibault discovered how close Aotearoa came to be claimed by the French. The town of Akaroa, which lies 84km south-east of Christchurch, was founded in August 1840 by French settlers. 

According to it is suggested the French settlement sped up Britain’s decision to colonise New Zealand in 1840.

When it comes to feeling settled, Thibault is more than happy where he is right now.

“When living in France, I was recommended by friends New Zealand was the place to visit. When I came here after living in Canada, I found a welcoming country with consistent economic growth and an enjoyable lifestyle and climate,” he says. 

“And being able to retain that French connection through the Chamber with opportunities to do business across the Pacific makes it even better.”

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