'Fully-fledged' embassy in Samoa will offer Paris greater clout – diplomat

A French diplomat says having an embassy in Samoa will enable France to play a more central role on issues that arise in the Pacific, such as security and climate change.

The French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for the first French embassy in Polynesia during his trip to the Pacific last week.

"France and Samoa share the same values of democracy, the rules-based order and the protection of global commons," the French government said in a statement.

"More than fifty years after the establishment of their diplomatic relations, that France and Samoa have decided to open a new page of their common history with the establishment of a French Embassy in Apia."

This embassy in Samoa, it said, would "contribute to strengthening the ties between Samoa and the French territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis et Futuna".

It is also expected to allow France to have greater engagement with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) based in Apia.

France's top diplomat in New Zealand, Laurence Beau, told RNZ Pacific that Paris was "fully aware of Samoa's importance in the region…because it is the headquarters for SPREP and many UN agencies".

France has embassies in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Beau said Paris is working with the Samoan government on the next steps before a formal date for the opening of the embassy is announced.

"When you have a fully-fledged embassy somewhere you have presence so you have more ability to develop economic and other relationships.

"Being based in Samoa would definitely help strengthen economic ties and people-to-people [relationships] and other things."

"For example, we have the French forces based in French Polynesia, we can have some cooperation of any sort that depending on the will and the needs expressed by the Samoan authorities," Beau added.