Pro-independence advocates in New Caledonia say a vote for full sovereignty would allow the country to step up onto the international stage.
The next referendum on independence from France will be held on 4 October and determine whether New Caledonia will obtain the powers still held by Paris, such as control over its foreign affairs.
Speakers at a webinar of Australia's Griffith University said an independent Kanaky-New Caledonia would set policies to reflect its own economic and national interests.
The French president Emmanuel Macron described New Caledonia as part of an Indo-Pacific axis to counter China's influence in the region.
While export markets for New Caledonia's mining output are mainly in Asia, a member of New Caledonia's Congress Patricia Goa said independence would offer a choice.
"What's wrong with having co-operation with China and others?
"What we are saying is that the difference is that we will choose how we want to put and the level we want to put into that relationship. We choose as a free state, as a state. That's all the difference."