Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, visits Australia

Minister Florence Parly paid a three-day visit to Australia on September 22, 23 and 24. This visit, the first of the Minister in Australia, allowed both countries to demonstrate their broad-based defense cooperation and mutual commitment.  Ms. Parly began her intense program in Sydney, where she met with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. On her second day, Ms. Parly flew to Adelaide where she dined with her counterpart Christopher Pyne and Steve Marshall, Premier of South Australia.
For the first step of the Franco-Australian initiative AFiniti, Paris and Canberra organized a symposium of defense industries in Adelaide Monday, September 24th. This two-day conference brought together some of the largest French and Australian defense companies, such as Naval Group, Thales, Safran and Airbus. The minister began her day by meeting eight French SMEs working in the field of maritime safety, present at this symposium to establish business relations in Australia.

Christopher Pyne and Florence Parly then seized this opportunity to hold a press conference and highlight the deepening of the Franco-Australian relationship. Christopher Pyne praised France’s commitment to Pacific security, in partnership with Australia. According to Mr. Pyne, “we take our role in the South Pacific very seriously and we support the presence of France as a regional power, thanks to New Caledonia and French Polynesia. We want to see this relationship continue to grow. ” Australia welcomes the involvement in its environment of nations sharing its values. Florence Parly emphasized this collaboration by explaining that “France and Australia have never been so close. We have a deep relationship, rooted in values, interests and a common perception of what is happening in the world. We are neighbors and allies in the Indo-Pacific, where we ensure the maritime safety of our allies.”

They then inaugurated the Franco-Australian Symposium on Defense Industries. The two ministers emphasized the key aspects of the Franco-Australian defense relationship, in particular the submarine contract and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Minister Christopher Pyne described the Franco-Australian submarine program as “the largest project of its kind in the world” and was delighted that Naval Group is the builder of these submarines, built in Australia. Florence Parly added that the contract negotiations were following their course in a positive way. Placing the contract in its strategic context, she explained that “the Australian decision to choose Naval Group for its submarines was a key moment in the bilateral relationship,” because this trade and defense agreement requires political and strategic collaboration. In addition, the minister described the agreement as “a huge industrial challenge to meet Australian demands: manufacturing in Australia, jobs for Australia, Australian steel.” This contract opens the way for full cooperation between France and Australia.

The two ministers then stressed the commitment of France and Australia for international security and the protection of the law through their defense cooperation. Minister Pyne recalled that Australia was already engaged with France in regular military exercises, in particular Exercise Croix du Sud, the largest French exercise in the South Pacific. “We always welcome France to our drills in the region,” added Mr. Pyne. The Australian Defense Minister insisted that France and Australia share a common vision for the South China Sea that this area covers international waters and that every nation has the right to navigate there. Australia is patrolling the South China Sea regularly. “We are delighted to be able to do so with France in the coming years. We do not see why nations would see the South China Sea as a threat to their sovereignty, “said Christopher Pyne. Florence Parly expressed the same point of view on this subject. More specifically, she mentioned the fact that it is “a source of common concern between France and Australia. France does not support any party but wants to be certain that the freedom of navigation is ensured there “. She added that France patrols several times a year in the South China Sea and seeks to better coordinate with Australia on this subject: “the position of France is clear, we want China to respect international law but we are open to dialogue “.
Following her meeting with Christopher Pyne, Florence Parly spoke with Steve Ciobo, Australian Minister for Defense Industries, with whom she witnessed the signing of a joint venture agreement between two French and Australian defense companies, Issartel and HI Fraser. The visit of Florence Parly to Australia has demonstrated the depth of Franco-Australian cooperation for the security of the Indo-Pacific region and the world more widely. She highlighted the fact that France and Australia are not just partners. These two countries share the same vision, common core values, and face the same insecurities and threats. However, France and Australia also share common opportunities. As Florence Parly explained, “the level of operational interaction between the two countries will increase in our strategic partnership”.