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Australia made 'huge mistake' in cancelling submarine deal, says French envoy

WorldSep 18, 2021 04:50PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Outside view of the Quai d'Orsay building, headquarters of France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, February 28, 2003. 2/2

By Lidia Kelly and Gus Trompiz

MELBOURNE/PARIS (Reuters) -Australia has made a "huge" diplomatic error by ditching a multi-billion-dollar order for French submarines in favour of an alternative deal with the United States and Britain, France's envoy to Canberra said on Saturday.

Canberra announced on Thursday it would scrap its 2016 deal with France's Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered ones with U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership nL1N2QH2X7.

The move caused fury in France, a NATO ally of the United States and Britain, prompting it to recall its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra, and also riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Malaysia said on Saturday that Canberra's decision to build atomic-powered submarines could trigger a regional nuclear arms race, echoing concerns already raised by Beijing.

"It will provoke other powers to also act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea," the Malaysian prime minister's office said, without mentioning China.

Beijing's foreign policy in the region has become increasingly assertive, particularly its maritime claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, some of which conflict with Malaysia's own claims.

"This has been a huge mistake, a very, very bad handling of the partnership - because it wasn't a contract, it was a partnership that was supposed to be based on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity," France's Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault told reporters in Canberra before returning to Paris.

France has previously branded the cancellation of the deal - valued at $40 billion in 2016 and reckoned to be worth much more today - a stab in the back nL1N2QI002.

'DUPLICITY'

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later described the row as a "crisis" in France's relations with the United States and Australia.

"There has been duplicity, contempt and lies - you can't play that way in an alliance," he told France 2 television.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said France was a "vital ally" and that the United States would work in the coming days to resolve the differences.

Analysts say that even if U.S. officials hope the crisis will blow over quickly, it could do lasting damage to Washington's alliance with France and Europe and throws into doubt the united front that the Biden administration has been seeking to forge against China's growing power.

Australia said it regretted the recall of the French ambassador and that it valued the relationship with France and would keep engaging with Paris on other issues.

"Australia understands France's deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests," a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday.

Thebault said he was very sad to have to leave Australia but added there "needs to be some reassessment" of bilateral ties.

In separate comments made to SBS radio, Thebault said of the ditched agreement: "It was not about selling salads or potatoes, it was a relationship of trust at the highest level covering questions of the highest level of secrecy and sensitivity."

The row between Paris and Canberra marks the lowest point in their relations since 1995, when Australia protested France's decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific and recalled its ambassador for consultations.

Public opinion in France, where President Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term in an election due next year, has also been very critical of Australia and the United States.

"You can understand for geopolitical reasons Australia getting closer to other anglophone countries like the United States and Britain," said Louis Maman, a Parisian surgeon out for a stroll on Saturday on the Champs-Elysees.

"But there was a real contract and I think there was an alliance and a friendship between Australia and France. It's spoiling a friendship," he said. "I took it as a betrayal."

Australia made 'huge mistake' in cancelling submarine deal, says French envoy
 

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Comments (9)
mark twain
mark twain Sep 19, 2021 5:32AM ET
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Storm in a teacup.
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Sep 18, 2021 6:51PM ET
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What, are the French gonna fly down there and beat ‘em up?
David David
David9 Sep 18, 2021 6:51PM ET
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French doesn't need to do that... China a will punished through economics, that's all it take...
David David
David9 Sep 18, 2021 6:42PM ET
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I am sorry but I think these kangaroos made a big mistake and they will suffer for decades to come.... the China Lion have spoken and we are going to see economic collapse in the kangaroo land...
David David
David9 Sep 18, 2021 6:42PM ET
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Investing Man China will teach them what is Econ 101...
Daniel Hodel
Daniel Hodel Sep 18, 2021 6:21PM ET
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How sad! They want quality subs. Your bread tastes great though. You have that going for you France.
New Jazenevd
New Jazenevd Sep 18, 2021 5:03PM ET
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French military equipment is second-rate the same as the country. It does not deserve any cooperation. US made big mistakes sending troops to Europe twice before trying to help them.
Daniel Hodel
Daniel Hodel Sep 18, 2021 5:03PM ET
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Facts^^! The French need America more than we need thm. What are they going to do about it?
Daniel Morel
Daniel Morel Sep 18, 2021 5:03PM ET
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Daniel Hodel no we don’t - Europe and France will turm more and more toward China where we did commerce for 10 centuries. US and Australia will be isolated when China becomes the largest economic power. China will count on Europe Africa and Russia
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Sep 18, 2021 4:02PM ET
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French diesel submarines are worthless today,  That is why deal is cancelled.
Simon Rowe
Simon Rowe Sep 18, 2021 11:49AM ET
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Macron hates the fact he's seen as irrelevant on the world stage!
Necleus Electron
Necleus Electron Sep 18, 2021 11:07AM ET
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I said numerous, countless, endless times. US is a country that cannot be trusted. US only make friends and allies with benefits. Brexit was initiated and orchestrated by US - aim is to weaken the EU and made UK under the wings of US. Of course not everybody can see thru the american evil scheme.
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Sep 18, 2021 11:07AM ET
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rrrright.. so no other country signs beneficial treaties or is otherwise concerned with their own national interests.. got it. Aaand you really do think the Brits can’t decide for themselves whether or not to stay in the Marxist socialist failing EU.. lol
Jason Patcher
Jason Patcher Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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tell the USA to buy those subs for Taiwan or Japan and everyone is happy again. France is only upset about the money for their defense industry (as they should be).
Show previous replies (1)
Jason Patcher
Jason Patcher Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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I admit, things since 9/11 and it's aftermath - we failed. the last 75 years have many mistakes.
Jason Patcher
Jason Patcher Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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but what's the alternative - totalitarian ism or nationalism... communism.... we have to keep trying, we need your help
Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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Necleus Electron  US helps protect countries like Taiwan against evil regimes like China. That is necessary and valiant work. Be thankful!
Limin Tandiono
Limin Tandiono Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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The evil China do more good to its people than the good America does. Most chinese support their government, how about american?
Nick Mc Miller
Nick Mc Miller Sep 18, 2021 10:19AM ET
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Silence Dogood  just a normal brainwashed sheep here
 
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