French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to Australian PM Scott Morrison for first time since submarine deal

French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the first time since the shock scrapping of a $90 billion dollar submarine deal, telling his Australian counterpart the decision “broke the relationship of trust” between the nations.

The European leader also urged Australia to adopt “ambitious” emissions reduction targets at next week’s global climate conference in Glasgow and commit to ending coal production and consumption. 

“President Macron recalled that Australia’s unilateral decision to scale back the French-Australian strategic partnership by putting an end to the ocean-class submarine programme in favour of another as-yet unspecified project broke the relationship of trust between our two countries,” a French readout of a Thursday phone call between the two leaders said.
French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the first time since the diplomatic crisis.. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) (AP)

“The situation of the French businesses and their subcontractors, including Australian companies, affected by this decision will be given our utmost attention. 

“It is now up to the Australian Government to propose tangible actions that embody the political will of Australia’s highest authorities to redefine the basis of our bilateral relationship and continue joint action in the Indo-Pacific.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said he was happy to speak with his French counterpart in a “candid discussion on the bilateral relationship”.

“The Prime Minister looks forward to future collaborations on our shared interests, particularly in the Indo-Pacific,” it said, in a statement.

“The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to inform the President about Australia’s commitment to deliver net zero emissions by 2050.”

Australia’s decision to scrap the major French deal in favour of the future purchase of nuclear submarines made available through three-way tie-up with the United States and the United Kingdom provoked fury in Paris and among its European allies.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is heading to Rome for the G20 and then on to Glasgow for COP26.. (Supplied)

French officials labelled the decision, conveyed just hours before the global announcement of the AUKUS pact, as a “stab in the back” and Mr Macron immediately recalled his ambassadors to the US and Australia.

Mr Morrison, having negotiated an agreement for net zero by 2050 with the Nationals, is expected to come under pressure in Glasgow from US, UK and European leaders to improve Australia’s 2030 targets.

As part of the Paris Agreement, all countries were expected to ratchet up their targets, “nationally determined contribution” ahead of COP26 but Australia stuck with the same relatively unambitious target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction based on 2005 levels. 

That’s slightly more than half of what the US is pledging and well below the UK and the European Union.

The Elysee said Mr Macron encouraged Mr Morrison to adopt “ambitious measures commensurate with the climate challenge”.

“In particular the ratcheting up of the nationally determined contribution, the commitment to cease production and consumption of coal at the national level and abroad, and greater Australian support to the International Solar Alliance,” it said.

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