Australia, France reinforce regional partnership, industry collaboration, bilateral cooperation
February 1, 2023
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong have used their joint statement with French counterparts — Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France and Sébastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces of France — to reinforce and renew the bilateral relationship.
Australia’s relationship with France has been something of a roller-coaster in the past five years, from the elated highs following the announcement of the Naval Group Shortfin Barracuda conventional submarine as the Attack Class to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s ageing Collins Class fleet, to the disastrous lows following the multi-billion dollar cancellation of the contract by the former government in favour of nuclear-powered submarines to be delivered under the AUKUS agreement.
The Albanese government has moved to distance itself from the perceived failings of the previous government and its handling of the Australia-France relationship in light of mounting global tensions and challenges to the post-Second World War geopolitical, economic, and strategic order.
As Russia steps up its attacks against Ukraine, despite increased Western support, and flagrantly skirts Western economic sanctions on oil, natural gas and other key Russian exports, the world is also contending with mounting tensions in the Indo-Pacific. With continued invasions of Taiwan’s air and maritime boundaries by China and the ever present threat of nuclear attacks from the unpredictable North Korean regime, the table appears set.
In light of these global circumstances, the bilateral relationship between Australia and France has emerged as one of the key geopolitical and strategic relationships pivotal to continuing peace, stability, and security in the Indo-Pacific, with broader economic impacts for both nations over the coming decades — recognising this, the Australian and French governments have moved to reaffirm the importance of this relationship.
The growing importance of this relationship has been highlighted in the joint statement, issued for the Second France-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations which covered a range of topics critical to the ongoing security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
Calling out Russia’s acts of aggression, sending a message to potential aggressors
Central to the joint statement was renewed and reinvigorated solidarity in the face of Russia’s reinvigorated attacks on Ukraine — with Australia and France committing to a host of agreements, namely: “Ministers reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s illegal, immoral and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and called once more for Russia’s immediate withdrawal. They reaffirmed that Russia’s flagrant and repeated violations of the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the Helsinki Decalogue will elicit a united and firm response as long as they continue.”
This condemnation was further reinforced by an industry partnership between Australia and France which will support Ukraine’s ongoing war effort by providing munitions, both parties agreed: “France and Australia expressed their shared commitment to Ukraine’s security and their strong resolve to continue to support Ukraine. Ministers announced their intent to provide support to Ukraine including through joint supply of 155-millimetre ammunition. The initiative leverages the complementarities of respective defence industries and meets Ukraine’s urgent need for 155-millimetre ammunition.”
This unique partnership will expand Australia’s defence industrial base and enhance the partnership between the two nations and lays the important foundation for strengthening the bilateral partnership and its impact in the Indo-Pacific.
Strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific
The future of the Indo-Pacific’s economic, political, and strategic stability is central to the broader prosperity and stability of global affairs for much of the 21st century. This has been recognised by many existing and emerging powers with all parties beginning to expand the influence and presence across the region.
For Australia, the Indo-Pacific is our home and the region we are most economically, politically and strategically linked. France is, to a lesser degree, invested in the Indo-Pacific, with more than a million French citizens calling the region home. Both nations have reaffirmed their ongoing investment and commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.