The White House says it is planning a call with French President Emmanuel Macron to, among other things, reaffirm the U.S. commitment to working with one its oldest allies, press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.
This comes amid fallout from a new trilateral defense partnership between the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia. The deal announced last week includes plans to build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian military and comes after Australia and France had already struck a $66 billion deal in 2016 for submarines.
French officials say they were made aware of the new arrangement only hours before it was announced last Wednesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. France has since withdrawn its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington D.C. and has threatened to block trade discussions between the European Union and Australia.
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called the situation a “crisis,” denouncing what he called the “duplicity, disdain and lies.”
France’s European Affairs Secretary Clement Beaune told Politico that “keeping one’s word is the condition of trust between democracies and between allies.”
“So it is unthinkable to move forward on trade negotiations as if nothing had happened with a country in which we no longer trust,” Beaune said of Australia.
At Monday’s press briefing, Psaki told reporters the French government has committed to a call between Macron and Biden, and scheduling is still being worked out.
“What I expect the president will do on that call is reaffirm our commitment to working with one of our oldest and closest partners on a range of challenges that the global community is facing,” said Psaki. “And he, of course, will discuss recent developments and our ongoing work together on a range of issues, certainly our shared interest in the Indo-Pacific, but also a range of global challenges and issues.”
When the trilateral agreement, known by the acronym AUUKUS, was announced last week, Biden acknowledged France’s “substantial Indo-Pacific presence,” and called the country a “key partner and ally in strengthening the security and prosperity of the region.”
The abandoned deal between French and Australia was with majority French state-owned Naval Group for conventional submarines. That group put out a statement saying it had been working on the project for five years with teams in both France Australia. The statement reads: “The analysis of the consequences of this sovereign Australian decision will be conducted with the Commonwealth of Australia in the coming days.”
Psaki said she is not aware of any plans to offer France any recompense for any economic loss but acknowledged reports saying a couple of hundred French jobs are anticipated to be lost from the deal.