Tahiti Forum bid could trigger domino effect

3:08 pm on 3 August 2015

An academic says there could be a domino effect of non-independent territories seeking to join the Pacific Islands Forum if French Polynesia achieves membership.

The French territory, which currently has observer status at the Forum, is looking at increasing its involvement in the leading regional body.

A Forum mission has recently been in Tahiti to assess its membership bid.

Massey University's Malakai Koloamatangi

Massey University's Malakai Koloamatangi Photo: Massey University

The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi, says while France is reluctant to entertain the idea of its territories becoming independent, it wants to engage more with the region and having Forum membership could help effect this.

"If it works out for the French territories, who knows, American territories might follow suit if it's shown that joining the Forum in a more meaningful way might be more beneficial for them."

However, Malakai Koloamatangi says a number of technical issues would need to be addressed before French Polynesia could become a member of the Pacific Islands Forum.

He says technicalities over the territory's status might be problematic within the Forum, for instance for developmental reasons.

"The territories are not seen as being developing regions because they're part of France. Whereas most of the Pacific is seen as a developing part of the world, so it gets aid, it gets concessions and so forth. So how do you treat the French territories? In what category do you place the territories in terms of aid for example, from the EU? What does the EU (do), will it treat the French territories like it treats Tokelau or Niue?"

Malakai Koloamatangi says Tokelau's associate member status provides a possible precedent for French Polynesia's inclusion in the Forum.