Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday that he will meet President Emmanuel Macron in France next week to reset a bilateral relationship that was damaged when the previous Australian government canceled a submarine contract.
Albanese said Macron had invited him to visit France while he is in Europe to attend a NATO summit in Spain.
We had very constructive discussions. Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that they brought to a close the arrangements that were in place over submarines.
France responded with fury when former Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in September that Australia was cancelling a 90 billion Australian dollar $62 billion contract for a French state-owned company to build a fleet of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.
Australia and Britain had struck a deal with the United States and Britain to provide submarines powered by U.S. nuclear technology.
France temporarily withdrew its ambassadors from the U.S. and Australia. Macron accused Morrison of lying to him over the French contract that was awarded in 2016. Morrison denied the accusation.
The U.S. president Joe Biden told Macron weeks later that the U.S. had been clumsy in its handling of the Australian submarine alliance. Biden thought Macron had been informed long before the deal was announced.
In May 21 the Labor Party of Albanese came to power. His government announced two weeks ago that it had agreed to pay France's Naval Group a 555 million-euro $583 million settlement for breaking the contract.
The new Australian government has paid too much, according to lawmakers from the previous Australian administration.
Albanese said bureaucrats estimated before a Senate hearing in April that breaking the contract would cost AU $5.5 billion $3.8 billion. He said his administration had brought that cost down to AU $3.4 billion 2.3 billion through the cooperation of Macron and the French government.
It is important that the reset occur. France is central to the power in Europe. Albanese said it was a key power in the Pacific, as well as in our own region.
It is just one of the reasons why this needs to be a relationship that is nurtured and not damaged. Albanese said that next week s visit is a very concrete sign of the repair that has been done already.