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Visa-Free access to France welcomed



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M ED IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA56 5 May 1998

VISA-FREE ACCESS TO FRANCE WELCOMED

I welcome the announcement by French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, that short term Australian visitors to France will no longer need to obtain a visa.

France is an important partner for Australia, both in Europe and the Pacific, and we have jointly sought to strengthen our cooperation and ties over the past two years. This announcement reflects the excellent state of the bilateral relationship with France and augurs well for the future.

The decision will be a major step forward in stimulating trade, investment and people-to-people contacts between our two countries. These links are already strong and wide-ranging and there is considerable potential for the commercial relationship to expand even further. French direct investment in Australia totalled $4.3 billion in June

1997, up from $2.8 billion in 1996. French visitors to Australia exceeded 65,000 in 1996/97, a 14% increase on the previous year.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin informed the Speaker of the Australian Parliament, the Rt Hon Mr Ian Sinclair, of this decision at a meeting in New Caledonia yesterday. Mr Jospin said the decision would be implemented shortly. Mr Sinclair is representing Mr Howard at the opening of a major Melanesian cultural centre in Noumea and at a signing ceremony on the Noumea Accords on the future of New

Caledonia.

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