France seeks enhanced ‘strategic partnership’ with Australia

Adelaide, March 1 (IANS) France hopes to forge an enhanced relationship with Australia if it secures the nation’s contract to build its next generation of submarines.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian revealed this while touring an Adelaide shipyard on Tuesday.

France is currently in direct competition with Japan and Germany to construct the fleet of underwater vessels, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We want to contribute to Australia by offering these high-tech submarines,” Le Drian said.

Le Drian said French-built submarines, known for their long-range capabilities, would offer a strategic advantage over the rival bids. He also said the potential collaboration could prove mutually beneficial for both countries, fostering the exchange of new age, high-tech information that would “strengthen the industrial fabric” of Australia.

In February, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop travelled to Tokyo to discuss the contract with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

Bishop said Japanese officials were also keen to strengthen its alliance with Australia through the bid.

Japan has been frequently cited as the frontrunner to win the contract.

However, reports in the Australian media suggest the demotion of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has helped France’s pitch as Abbott heavily favoured Japan’s bid.

A competitive process is under way with the winner set to be announced this year.

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