French Polynesia 

Flag of 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.


Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from South America to Australia

Geographic coordinates:

15 00 S, 140 00 W


total: 4,167 sq km (118 islands and atolls)
water: 507 sq km
land: 3,660 sq km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 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

Land use:

arable land: 0.82%
permanent crops: 5.46%
other: 93.72% (2001)

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


266,339 (July 2004 est.)

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)

Dependency status:

overseas territory of France since 1946




none (overseas territory of France)

National holiday:

Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)


28 September 1958 (French Constitution)

Legal system:

based on French system

Economy - overview:

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.

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

1.5% (2002 est.)

Labor force:

70,000 (1996)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture 13%, industry 19%, services 68% (1997)

Unemployment rate:

11.8% (1994)

Agriculture - products:

coconuts, vanilla, vegetables, fruits; poultry, beef, dairy products, coffee


tourism, pearls, agricultural processing, handicrafts, phosphates

Exports - commodities:

cultured pearls, coconut products, mother-of-pearl, vanilla, shark meat

Exports - partners:

France 67.1%, Japan 16.3%, US 9.2% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

fuels, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment

Imports - partners:

France 58.4%, Australia 11.6%, New Zealand 5.8%, US 5.8% (2003 est.)


Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (XPF)

Telephones - main lines in use:

52,500 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

90,000 (2002)


total: 2,590 km
paved: 1,735 km
unpaved: 855 km (1999)

Ports and harbors:

Mataura, Papeete, Rikitea, Uturoa

Merchant marine:

total: 10 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 17,537 GRT/15,150 DWT
by type: cargo 3, passenger 2, passenger/cargo 3, refrigerated cargo 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2003 est.)


49 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 37
over 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
under 914 m: 7 (2003 est.)
914 to 1,523 m: 23

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 7 (2003 est.)


1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of France