France’s Macron starts trip to Australia focusing on defense

May 1, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. President Macron is in Sydney for bilateral talks. (Mick Tsikas/Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Australia Tuesday for a three-day visit to seek closer cooperation between the two countries on security issues.

Macron’s trip will have a strong focus on defense, since Naval Group (former DCNS), a French state majority-owned company, won a 2016 bid to build submarines for the Australian navy in a deal worth 50 billion Australian dollars ($37 billion).

“Everywhere, I continue to develop strategic partnerships for France... Our wish is to be an even stronger partner for Australia,” Macron said upon arrival.

The project binds the two countries in a joint commitment for more than 50 years through submarine construction and maintenance. The submarines are to be built in Australia, with the first one due to be launched in 2027.

The president’s office said France considers Australia a key partner in ensuring maritime security in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and counter China’s expanding power.

France has several overseas territories and a total of 8,000 military based in the region.

Macron, who is just back from a state visit to Washington, was welcomed by Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife with a dinner at Sydney Opera House.

Turnbull was in France last week for World War I commemorations.

The two leaders are expected to sign agreements, hold a joint press conference and visit Garden Island military base on Wednesday.

Macron’s visit will also focus on climate-related issues. The French leader, at the forefront of efforts to fight climate change, wants to boost efforts to respond to extreme climatic events in island states and protect coral reefs.

“I wish to salute Sydney’s commitment in the fight against climate change,” he said.

Macron will then head to New Caledonia, a French territory east of Australia, in the South Pacific.

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