France will be "top-level partner" for Australia - Minister

Australia – Bilateral relations – Creative France Australia agenda 2017 – Speech by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to the French community (excerpts)

Sydney, 1 March 2017


Australia and France are linked by principles and values. They come together around shared ideals. By celebrating our alliance’s centenary, we believed that the finest tribute to past generations is to work together to prepare for the future.

During his state visit, the President suggested working together with Australia in three priority areas.

Firstly, we are cooperating in the areas of security and defence. In France’s opinion, Australia is a factor for stability and development in the region, and in a world where uncertainties and threats are growing. A strong Australia is a major strength for the community of nations which are committed, as we are, to democracy, human rights and multilateralism.

Our second joint priority is an economic one. Australia has chosen to develop its model by diversifying what drives its growth and making the most of its highly educated population to develop its technologies and high-tech industries. This focus on the economy and knowledge is also at the heart of France’s strategies, and we have a great deal to share in this respect. In many cases, top-level expertise and our companies’ ability to innovate meet Australia’s needs. So more economic partnerships between Australia and France must be formed. This is the aim of the business delegation here at my side, under the leadership of Guillaume Pépy for MEDEF [French employers’ association], and Ross McInnes, who has agreed to be my special representative for Australia – two major business chiefs who are helping France succeed in Australia, and whom I thank for being here. I hope we’ll be able to welcome a delegation of Australian business leaders to discover our cities and regions.

Finally, we know that the relationship between France and Australia goes well beyond state-to-state relations, and even economic relations. Every one of you is proof of this: men and women across the country foster and increase the richness and vitality of our ties. Professionals, entrepreneurs, academics, researchers, artists and students – you all play an active part in this highly ambitious relationship.

This is the purpose of the Creative France Australia initiative, whose 2017 edition we’re launching, all together, today. Creative France is about showing France in its best light, with its researchers opening their laboratories, its universities forging links with their Australian partners and its artists sharing their emotions with the public.

Alongside Ambassador Christophe Lecourtier, the Consul General and their teams, I pay tribute to everything Team France has accomplished and will accomplish in future. I commend especially the influence of the Alliances françaises, the work of the researchers in the AFRAN [Australian French Association for research and innovation] network, the honorary consuls and consular advisers, and the work of French teachers, schools and volunteers in mutual assistance organizations. You all contribute to the Franco-Australian partnership.

This unity, this ambition and this desire to be a major partner of Australia have been crucial assets for supporting the French offer to supply Australia with a fleet of top-performance ocean submarines. Our ambition was convincing because it was that of a whole nation, of the highest state authorities, the diplomats, the military institution, manufacturers and all those whose knowledge and skills were required. It’s what I’ve called Team France. They can legitimately be proud of what they’ve accomplished and are going to accomplish. There’s a lesson to be learnt from managing to create this alliance.

This success commits our two countries to a partnership which is exceptional in its duration, intensity and diversity. It renews the alliance forged on the French battlefields, because it’s about facing up together to the risks and opportunities of a century which, in many respects, is no less dangerous than the previous one. (…)

Australia’s decision to purchase submarines does us credit, but above all it places an obligation on us. France will honour its commitments. In December, two intergovernmental treaties were signed to provide a framework for this project. During my visit, we’ll sign a new strategic partnership with Australia that will cover a series of key areas, in order to address future challenges. Our political dialogue, our economic cooperation, our partnerships in science and innovation, culture, energy and the environment will be given unprecedented resources.

France will be a top-level partner for Australia, and that’s what I’ll tell Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, my counterpart, Ms Julie Bishop, and the Australian leaders I’ll be meeting in Canberra and Melbourne tomorrow and on Friday. In this respect, the support and participation of each of you are decisive.

We’ll unreservedly support the ambition of the French territories in the South Pacific and the departments in the Indian Ocean to promote closer relations with Australia. It’s another major asset for our comprehensive partnership, which also enables us to contribute together to the development, stability and security of the island states in the region, including sometimes very small, vulnerable states. (…)./.

Published on 15/03/2017

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