French PM quiet on free-trade deal with EU

  • 02/05/2016
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls wound up his quick visit today (Newshub.)
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls wound up his quick visit today (Newshub.)

New Zealand will make efforts to get French Polynesia and New Caledonia on to the Pacific Islands Forum but there is no word of progress on a free-trade deal with the European Union.

Manuel Valls wound up his quick visit on Monday - the first visit by a French prime minister in 25 years - saying nothing about New Zealand's bid to get more access to the massive European market.

However, he did say former Kiwi PM Helen Clark was qualified for the job of United Nations secretary-general. France, as a permanent security council member, has right of veto for the top job.

"At the moment it is still too early to make any decision," Mr Valls said.

"France will take into account the political authority, the management competencies and the career and propositions of each candidate regarding peace keeping ... and Helen Clark meets these expectations," he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says the pair discussed a number of issues, including humanitarian issues in Syria and the Middle East, and the fight against Islamic State.

The New Caledonia and French Polynesia presidents also visited and Mr Key said New Zealand supported the French territories joining the 16-member Pacific Island Forum.

He believed the forum would be strengthened if they were members.

"We see the Pacific forum as a geographical issue ... It strikes me that if both French Polynesia and New Caledonia are around the table then they will have a real voice to be heard."

New Zealand's foreign minister would work with the forum's secretariat to see how that could happen, he said.

New Zealand is keen for a free-trade agreement with the EU and last year got an agreement to move forward with an FTA.

However, there were no further announcements and Mr Key said he got the chance to explain why that would be a win-win for both the EU and New Zealand.

Mr Key also said it was too difficult just yet to count on French support for Miss Clark becoming UN secretary-general.

However, there was zero chance they would veto her, and could even support her under the right circumstances.

"People are going to play it quite close to their chest for a while."

Mr Valls told reporters the subject of the deadly 1985 Rainbow Warrior bombing in Auckland, carried out by French agents, didn't get raised.

"Honestly, I think that now this is behind us. Our relationship has changed and is now focused on the future."

Mr Key said there had been genuine acknowledgement from France that they had made a horrible mistake.

"The relationship has to be stronger than one thing that was a big mistake by France."

NZN