Emmanuel Macron leaves the door to Australia open

The day after a meeting with Australia’s prime minister, the head of state indicated that the French bid for 12 conventional submarines remained “on the table” more than a year after Australia pulled out of that mega-deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in Bangkok on Thursday that the offer of French submarine cooperation with Australia remains “on the table”. “It is known, it remains on the table,” he said, recalling the day after meeting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali that the submarines were conventionally propelled.

The completion of the AUKUS alliance between Australia, the US and the UK had prompted Canberra to cancel a mega deal in 2021 to acquire 12 French conventional submarines that would have been built in Australia.

Delayed deliveries for nuclear submarines

Australia decided to buy US or British nuclear submarines instead, a big change for a country with weak nuclear capabilities. However, these submarines will likely take time to be delivered as Australians need to quickly refresh their capabilities given China’s growing influence in the region.

“We will see how they adapt to the difficulties,” Emmanuel Macron said, noting that “at the moment they have not decided to change their strategy on this issue,” despite the fact that there has been a new Prime Minister, Labor Anthony Albanese, since May , who has pledged with Emmanuel Macron to repair the damaged bilateral relations between the two countries.

“There is a fundamental choice whether or not they produce submarines at home, or whether they decide to go nuclear or not,” Emmanuel Macron said.

Revival of bilateral relations and France’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy

The head of state recalled that France does not supply nuclear submarines abroad and that the offer therefore remains conventional. “We’ve never had a strategy like this before,” he said. The French solution offers Australia an alternative that guarantees its “freedom and sovereignty,” he stressed, recalling that the submarines were built there.

The crisis with Australia has seriously undermined France’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy, which has many territories and sea spaces in the region and wants a place there. President Macron will seek to reinvigorate those strategic ambitions at the APEC summit in Bangkok, to which he will be the first European head of state to be invited.

“In this highly contested region, scene of a confrontation between the two leading world powers (..) our strategy is: defense of freedom and sovereignty, balances that preserve maritime freedoms, balanced cultural exchanges, economic exchanges, development of technologies without dominant hegemonic model,” stressed Emmanuel Macron.

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