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Australian PM says he told France sub deal might be scrapped

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September 17, 2021


2:05 pm

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Canberra could walk away from its €50 billion submarine contract.

“I made it very clear, we had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we’re faced with,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.

Australia chose this week to ditch a deal worth more than €50 million with France’s Naval Group to create a fleet of conventional submarines, a move French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called a “stab in the back.” Under a new deal described on Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, Australia will collaborate with the U.S. and the U.K. to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. The new alliance, called AUKUS, will see the three countries share technologies with each other.

France was furious with the decision, saying it had not been given fair warning as Australia discarded a deal so massive it was called the “contract of the century.” The French embassy in Washington canceled a reception it was supposed to host on Thursday.

The deal between Canberra and Washington is a blow to Macron’s Indo-Pacific strategy as well as a diplomatic fallout between allies. France is not only livid with Australia, but disappointed with the role Biden’s administration played in the new deal.

“This unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision is a lot like what Mr. Trump did,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on national television Thursday morning.

The 2016 Franco-Australian deal was plagued by a host of issues for years, including delays, rising costs and design changes in Canberra’s bid to create 12 diesel Shortfin Barracuda submarines. Yet Le Drian implied France would fight the move, saying “this is not over.”

“We’re going to need clarifications. We have contracts.”

More from …

Liv Klingert

  • Sigrid Kaag says she must ‘face the consequences’ after parliament vote of censure against her.

  • The French president welcomes the ‘major success in our fight against terrorist groups in Sahel.’

  • France angered by pact which saw them lose submarine deal worth more than €50 billion.

  • ‘And I want to thank that fellow Down Under,’ Biden says of Aussie PM Scott Morrison. ‘Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr. Prime Minister.’

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