Referral and conduct of the inquiry
On 5 February 2020, the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee (the Committee) for inquiry and report by 13 August 2020:
Opportunities for strengthening Australia’s relations with the Republic of France, with particular reference to:
increasing bilateral trade and investment, including future growth areas for exports and imports, and opportunities in the mining industry;
enhancing political, security and defence cooperation, including through initiatives such as the Joint Statement of Enhanced Strategic Partnership between Australia and France signed in 2017, and the Strategic Partnering Agreement signed in 2018 for the Future Submarine Program;
options for enhancing strategic cooperation, including in the Indo‑Pacific region and through multilateral fora;
Australian engagement with intergovernmental organisations headquartered in France including the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO);
opportunities to build on shared historical and cultural values and promote tourism, with specific reference to Commonwealth War Graves, cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties; and
Conduct of the inquiry
Details of the inquiry were placed on the Committee's website at: http://www.aph.gov.au/senate_fadt. The Committee also contacted a number of relevant individuals and organisations to notify them of the inquiry and invite submissions by 3 April 2020. The Committee continued to receive submissions after the closing date. Submissions received are listed at Appendix 1.
The Committee held two public hearings, on 24 and 26 June in Canberra, via teleconference. A list of witnesses who gave evidence is available at Appendix 2. Submissions and the Hansard transcripts of evidence may be accessed through the Committee website.
The Committee thanks the organisations and individuals who provided submissions and participated in the Committee's public hearing.
Australia and France have a strong and growing partnership built on common values and vision, historical bonds and shared interests. The French Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Christophe Penot provided his view of the bilateral relationship:
I would say first that, in the past five years, I believe that Australia and France have built a very impressive political relationship and a dense partnership on the basis of their common values and shared interests in the Indo-Pacific.
The Embassy of France noted that '[w]hat makes [the relationship] so special is that it has developed over a relatively short period of time and it covers a wide range of cooperation areas'. Those areas extend 'across all areas of defense and security, business and investment, scientific and cultural exchanges'.
Key strategic documents
As noted by Ambassador Penot, Australia and France have strengthened their cooperation on key global and regional issues in recent years through a framework. The three key strategic documents are: the Joint Statement of Enhanced Strategic Partnership between Australia and France agreed in 2017 (the Joint Statement); the 2018 Vision Statement on the Australia-France relationship (the Vision Statement) and the Australia-France Initiative known as AFiniti launched in 2018.
Joint Statement of Enhanced Strategic Partnership between Australia and France
Building on the 2012 Joint Statement of Strategic Partnership between Australia and France, the Joint Statement of Enhanced Strategic Partnership was signed on 3 March 2017 and 'promotes engagement across many areas of mutual interest, including political cooperation, defence and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans'.
The Joint Statement outlined the following ways to build on existing links:
encouraging trade, investment and business partnerships through regular business forums;
increasing the tempo of high-level political meetings;
supporting the partnership between our two countries to deliver Australia’s Submarine Program;
strengthening our partnership in the area of renewable energy;
deepening our understanding of our respective innovation and technology transfer ecosystems;
sharing experiences in crisis and consular management; and
encouraging the development of bilingual school programs and bi-national schools in both countries.
Vision Statement on the Australia-France Relationship
The Vision Statement on the Australia-France relationship was released on 2 May 2018 by President of the French Republic, His Excellency Mr Emmanuel Macron and then Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, during the French President's visit to Australia. Building upon the 2017 Joint Statement, it sets out a broad work agenda for bilateral cooperation.
In the Vision Statement the leaders agreed to launch the Australia-France Initiative (AFiniti) to strengthen collaboration and 'usher in a new era of Australia-France cooperation'. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised that:
Under AFiniti, Australia and France have increased work across government, industry and civil society. Ministers from a range of portfolios are directly engaged with this work, and there is a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region. In February 2019, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, met with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to finalise a joint report on AFiniti, which underlined progress made in strengthening the relationship.
This joint report on AFiniti does not appear to be a public document. In answers to questions on notice DFAT confirmed the 2019 AFiniti report is not public, and explained '[it] is a confidential communication from foreign ministers to leaders'.
Structure of the report
This report consists of seven chapters:
Chapter one is the referral, conduct of the inquiry and overview;
Chapter two covers trade and investment;
Chapter three details political, defence and security cooperation;
Chapter four covers intergovernmental organisations headquartered in France;
Chapter five examines strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific;
Chapter six looks at shared historical and cultural values, tourism, and education and research; and
Chapter seven details the Committee's conclusions and recommendations.