The Australian Prime Minister adjusts his mask during a news conference held with French President Emmanuel Macron in front of the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on June 15, 2021. RECUTERS Pascal Rossignol File Photo Pascal Rossignol
CANBERRA, Sept. 20 - Reuters - The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison traveled to Washington for a meeting with leaders of the Quad grouping amid criticism over his government's decision to abandon a $40 billion sub contract with France.
Last week, Australia announced it would scrap a deal with the France's Naval Group to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and will instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership. France has said that the relationship with Australia and the United States is in crisis and has recalled its ambassadors from both countries.
While Australia has moved to ease tensions, expressing its regret over the incident, Morrison's meeting with foreign partners former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden threatens to inflame French irritation.
The French are very unimpressed and the sight of Morrison, Biden and Johnson together will do little to repair ties, said Haydon Manning, a political science professor at Flinders University in South Australia.
Yoshihide Suga will also attend the team meeting of the quad group later this week.
The Quad will discuss COVID - 19, climate change and regional security, two sources familiar with the schedule told Reuters.
The Federal government is trying to ensure that Australia's sovereign interests are put first to ensure that Australians here can live peacefully with the many others in our region, Morrison told reporters while he boarded the plane to Washington.
New agreements for cooperating between the four countries are expected, but Australia will not announce strengthened climate targets pushed by the United States, one senior government source said.
Morrison has rejected setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and is under pressure to do more ahead of a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow from 31 Oct to 12 November.
Morrison is also facing growing pressure at home following the resignation of Christian Porter as minister for innovation and science after he accepted an anonymous donation to partially fund his fees when he launched a defamation action against Australia's public broadcaster.
Porter asked advice on whether the donation - which stoked concerns about donor could seek outsized sway over the minister - could breach ministerial rules, but Morrison resigned on Sunday.
Morrison must return to the polls by May 2022 and a widely watched poll on Monday showed the opposition centre-left Labor party on course to win power for the first time since 2013.