Facts about French Polynesia

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The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996. In recent years, French Polynesia's autonomy has been considerably expanded.

Geography of French Polynesia

Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from South America to Australia
15 00 S, 140 00 W
total: 4,167 sq km (118 islands and atolls)
water: 507 sq km
land: 3,660 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly less than one-third the size of Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
2,525 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical, but moderate
mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Orohena 2,241 m
Natural resources:
timber, fish, cobalt, hydropower
Natural hazards:
occasional cyclonic storms in January
Geography - note:
includes five archipelagoes (4 volcanic, 1 coral); Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru

Population of French Polynesia

283,019 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 26.1% (male 36,541/female 34,999)
15-64 years: 67.9% (male 96,769/female 89,593)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 8,428/female 8,248)
Median age:
27.9 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
8.29 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 76.1 years
male: 73.69 years
female: 78.63 years
Fertility rate:
2.01 children born/woman
noun: French Polynesian(s)
adjective: French Polynesian
Ethnic groups:
Polynesian 78%, Chinese 12%, local French 6%, metropolitan French 4%
Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%
French (official), Tahitian (official)
definition: age 14 and over can read and write
total population: 98% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Territory of French Polynesia
local short form: Polynesie Francaise
local long form: Territoire de la Polynesie Francaise
former: French Colony of Oceania
Dependency status:
overseas territory of France since 1946
Administrative divisions:
none (overseas territory of France); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 5 archipelagic divisions named Archipel des Marquises, Archipel des Tuamotu, Archipel des Tubuai, Iles du Vent, and Iles Sous-le-Vent
note: Clipperton Island is administered by France from French Polynesia
National holiday:
Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
28 September 1958 (French Constitution)
Legal system:
based on French system
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007), represented by High Commissioner of the Republic Adolphe COLRAT (since 7 July 2008)
head of government: President of French Polynesia Gaston TONG SANG (since 15 April 2008); President of the Territorial Assembly Antony GEROS (since 9 May 2004)
cabinet: Council of Ministers; president submits a list of members of the Territorial Assembly for approval by them to serve as ministers.
Legislative branch:
unicameral Territorial Assembly or Assemblee Territoriale (57 seats - changed from 49 seats for May 2004 election; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 23 May 2004 (next to be held May 2009)
Judicial branch:
Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel; Court of the First Instance or Tribunal de Premiere Instance; Court of Administrative Law or Tribunal Administratif
Political parties and leaders:
Alliance for a New Democracy or ADN [Nicole BOUTEAU and Philip SCHYLE](includes the parties The New Star and This Country is Yours); Independent Front for the Liberation of Polynesia (Tavini Huiraatira) [Oscar TEMARU]; New Fatherland Party (Ai'a Api) [Emile VERNAUDON]; People's Rally for the Republic of Polynesia or RPR (Tahoeraa Huiraatira) [Gaston FLOSSE]; Union for Democracy or UPD [Oscar TEMARU].


Since 1962, when France stationed military personnel in the region, French Polynesia has changed from a subsistence agricultural economy to one in which a high proportion of the work force is either employed by the military or supports the tourist industry. With the halt of French nuclear testing in 1996, the military contribution to the economy fell sharply. Tourism accounts for about one-fourth of GDP and is a primary source of hard currency earnings. Other sources of income are pearl farming and deep-sea commercial fishing. The small manufacturing sector primarily processes agricultural products. The territory benefits substantially from development agreements with France aimed principally at creating new businesses and strengthening social services.

$4.58 billion (2003 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 6%
industry: 18%
services: 76% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 13%
industry: 19%
services: 68%
revenues: $1 billion
expenditures: $900 million, including capital expenditures of $185 million 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 60.7%
hydro: 39.3%
other: 0%; note - sun, wind, biomass (2001)
nuclear: 0%
tourism, pearls, agricultural processing, handicrafts, phosphates
coconuts, vanilla, vegetables, fruits; poultry, beef, dairy products, coffee
cultured pearls, coconut products, mother-of-pearl, vanilla, shark meat
Export partners:
nce 45.8%, Japan 20.6%, Niger 13.2%, US 12.4% 
fuels, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment
Import partners:
France 51.9%, Singapore 14.7%, NZ 7.5%, US 6.5% 
Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (XPF); note - may adopt the euro in 2003

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress


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