Macron and Harris meet to mend France-US ties

Pair hope to restore unity after dispute over ditched Australian submarine contract

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday agreed on the importance of "absolutely critical" France-US relations.

A White House statement said Ms Harris underlined US commitment to co-operation on various global challenges, "from transatlantic security to the Indo-Pacific to the Sahel".

Expanded co-operation on space and cybersecurity issues was also announced. The two leaders "discussed the need for continued co-operation and concrete actions to create norms around emerging technology and strengthen preparedness for future pandemics", the White House said.

The meeting between the two countries came after a diplomatic storm caused by a ditched Australian submarine contract.

Mr Macron was furious in September when Australia dropped out of a deal to buy submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered vessels from the US in an agreement that had been negotiated in secret.

After weeks of anger in Paris, Mr Macron held talks with US President Joe Biden in Rome on October 29.

"I have to say we had a fruitful meeting in Rome a few days ago with President Biden, which paved the way for the coming weeks, months and, I have to say, years," Mr Macron told Ms Harris.

Facing each other over a table at the Elysee Palace, Mr Macron thanked Ms Harris for her four-day visit to Paris.

"We do share the view that we are at the beginning of a new era. Our co-operation is absolutely critical for this era," he said.

France wants to work closely with the US on matters ranging from climate change to the Indo-Pacific region, where China's rise is a cause of a mutual concern.

French officials called the submarine deal a "stab in the back" and regarded it as a setback for efforts to rebuild ties after years of tension under former US president Donald Trump.

"I do believe, and we share this belief, that we are at the beginning of a new era which presents us with many challenges but also many opportunities," Ms Harris told Mr Macron.

"When France and the United States have worked on challenges and opportunities in the past we have always found great success.

"Building on the great conversation that you and President Biden had, I look forward to the next few days where we'll continue to work together and renew the focus that we have always had on partnership."

Mr Biden sought to make amends over the submarine dispute at his meeting with Mr Macron last month, telling the French leader that his government had been "clumsy" in the way it secured the submarine deal with Australia in partnership with Britain.

France temporarily recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra after the announcement of the deal on September 15.

Anger in Paris stemmed not only from the loss of the deal, which was worth $36.5 billion in 2016, but also the shattering of an alliance it regarded as a cornerstone of its Indo-Pacific security strategy.

Ms Harris is scheduled to attend a peace forum with other world leaders on Thursday, and an international conference on Libya on Friday.

On Tuesday, during a tour of the famed Pasteur Institute in Paris, where Ms Harris's mother conducted cancer research in the 1980s, she was asked about the recent difficulties in Franco-American ties.

She compared politics with scientific research, as well as cooking, and suggested it entailed a constant search for improvement.

"There will be glitches and there will be mistakes," Ms Harris said. "If you don't make the same mistake twice … that's a good process and we should encourage it."

As she arrived on Tuesday, she said she was "looking forward to many, many days of productive discussions reinforcing the strength of our relationship".

Updated: November 11th 2021, 10:40 AM
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