French-Australian historical friendship
Our political relations are excellent and based on a wide-ranging community of views on most global and international issues. They are now governed by a French-Australian strategic partnership signed in January 2012, which paved the way for enhanced bilateral dialogue in many areas, including politics, culture, economics and defence. Our cooperation in the Pacific is increasing. The French presence in Oceania (three overseas communities: New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna) is considered important for regional stability. Commemorative ceremonies for the Great War (2014-2018) are key events in our bilateral relationship. They recall the huge contribution made by Australia alongside France during the First World War (300,000 Australians fought on the Western Front, with 45,000 of them losing their lives). The brotherhood of arms which was forged on the battlefields of Picardy and the Somme will be particularly honoured in 2016.
The Australian Prime Minister’s announcement on 26 April 2016 of the selection of the offer put forward by the French company DCNS (in competition with the German TKMS and Japanese Mitsubishi) for the construction of 12 ocean submarines should help strengthen economic and strategic ties that are already very close.
Our relationship is driven by ever-stronger substantive political dialogue.
April and May 2016 were marked by the State visit of the Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, on 26 April, after the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day ceremonies at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux the day before, as well as the visit by the French Prime Minister to Australia on 2 May following the announcement on 26 April of the selection of the French bid to replace the 12 Collins submarines.
January and February 2016 saw a telephone conversation (22 February) between the President of the French Republic and the Australian Prime Minister to discuss the situation in Fiji following cyclone Winston and a meeting between the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and his Australian counterpart on the sidelines of the Small Group meeting of the coalition against Daesh in Rome. The Minister of Defence also visited Australia (28 February - 1 March 2016).
April 2015 saw working visits by the Australian Prime Minister (25-27 April) and Foreign Minister (20-21 April). The Australian Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, met with the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, discussing in particular the fight against terrorism. The Foreign Minister, Ms Bishop, met with the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development to discuss the bilateral relationship as well as major topical and development issues. Following the change of leadership in Australia, the President of the Republic held a telephone conversation with the country’s new Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull.
The run-up to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) was an opportunity to intensify our contacts at the highest level: meeting between the President of the French Republic and the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, on 30 November 2015; between the French Prime Minister and Mr Turnbull on 30 November; between the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Australian Prime Minister at the G20 in Antalya on 15 November, and with his Australian counterpart, Ms Bishop, on 9 December.
The official visit of the President of the Republic to Australia for the G20 Summit in November 2014 was the first State visit by a President of the French Republic to Australia. In 2014, the Australian Prime Minister participated in the 70ᵗʰ anniversary of the Normandy Landings and met with the President of the Republic on 7 June. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Julie Bishop, met with the Foreign Minister in Paris on 23 April 2014. They had first met in the margins of the UN General Assembly in September 2013.
2012 saw the signature on 19 January 2012 by French Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Australian counterpart, Mr Kevin Rudd, of a declaration of strategic partnership governing bilateral political, economic, military and cultural cooperation. The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Richard Marles, met with the Minister for Overseas France and the Minister for Cooperation on 26 January 2012. In April 2012, the Governor-General, Lady Quentin Bryce, accompanied by Mr Richard Marles, made her first official visit to New Caledonia. She met with the President of the Government as well as the President of the Congress. In September 2012, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Carr, also discussed development challenges in the Pacific and Africa with Mr Canfin, French Minister Delegate for Development.
On the economic front, Australia was our eleventh-largest trade surplus in 2015, standing at €1.4 billion, even though our trade remains modest and our exports (equivalent to those to India) are decreasing Australian imports contract sharply. Australia is only France’s 53rd-largest supplier, and we are only the Australia’s 13th-largest supplier. However, the outlook remains positive for our exporters, in particular our major companies which receive an excellent return on investment, despite a slowdown in the mining boom and the high costs of air transport. Nearly all CAC 40 companies have a presence in Australia, which they regard as a strategic market for their international development.
Australian investment in France remains modest (45th-largest investor, with A$40 million in (mainly portfolio) investments and 124 companies employing 6,700 people), while French investment in Australia is significant (600 companies representing a stock of €6.1 billion in 2014 and 60,000 jobs).
The growth of our scientific and academic exchanges demonstrates the vibrancy of our current relations.
As regards science, in 2003 the countries established a mechanism designed to strengthen our relations (programme of actions 50% co-financed by the Australian Research Council, with 700 scientific cooperation projects per year). Health, the environment, water management and resources, energy and transport are the priorities of the system, which is supported by the Forum for European-Australian Science and Technology Cooperation (FEAST). In the biomedical sector, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and the University of Melbourne have signed a cooperation agreement. The Hubert Curien Partnership (PHC), which supported major cooperation programmes by supplying grants to researchers to travel abroad, ended in 2012, producing good results. It was replaced by a new programme: French Australia Scientific Innovation Cooperation Grants (FASIC). An AFD/AUSAID partnership agreement on cooperation in Africa, particularly as regards research on agriculture and climate risks, was signed on 5 July 2011.
Academic cooperation plays an important role in our relationship.
In 2014, 1,500 young French people went to study in Australia. There are 320 cooperation agreements between French and Australian universities which enable hundreds of students to take part in exchange programmes. These agreements cover all areas of study. Business, arts and humanities and human science studies are particularly popular. Several dual degrees at bachelor and post-graduate levels have also been created between French and Australian universities. An agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas was signed with Australia in October 2009. It enables students to continue their studies in the partner country and provides a formal framework relevant to students and institutions. “Australia Day” organized by Campus France in January 2012 helped to strengthen and foster partnerships between higher education institutions in France and Australia. The signing on 16 March 2011 of a tripartite agreement also enabled the launch of a branch of the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS – Institute
for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra to facilitate collaboration between French and Australian experts in Pacific studies. In November 2014 an agreement on a dual arts degree was signed between Sciences Po and the University of Sydney.
A traineeship programme in French companies has been in place since 2010. It offers Australian students work placements within French companies which have set up in Australia. The traineeship offers six months in Australia and six months in France at the headquarters or another of the company’s sites.
French is the third most widely-studied foreign language in Australia. The Alliance Française network has 30 centres in Australia, providing French lessons to about 10,000 students. Australia has several educational institutions approved by the French national education ministry: in Canberra, Telopea Park French-Australian secondary school and Red Hill French-Australian Preschool; in Sydney, The International French School of Sydney and in Melbourne a primary school.
France is one of Australia’s main cultural partners. Cooperation is undertaken via partnerships and largely funded by Australian operators. French artists regularly attend festivals in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The 26th edition of the Alliance Française French Film Festival was held from 3 March to 21 April 2015 and attended by 157,484 visitors (an increase of 20% compared to 2014) in all the capital cities of Australia. Australian museums have hosted major French exhibitions: in 2010, the exhibition on post-impressionnism from the Musée d’Orsay at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra attracted almost 500,000 visitors, while Picasso and Matisse exhibitions, held in Sydney and Brisbane respectively until March 2012, were hugely popular. Three major exhibitions are programmed for 2016: the Degas exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne in June, the Lesueur exhibition in July at the South Australian Maritime Museum in Adelaide, and the presentation of 100 masterpieces from the Château de Versailles at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra at the end of the year.