Australia, France and finding equilibrium in Southeast Asia

Australia, France and finding equilibrium in Southeast Asia | The Strategist (

16 Aug 2023|Natalie Sambhi and Hugh Piper

Australia and France have made significant strides towards repairing their diplomatic relationship in the nearly two years since Australia’s cancellation of its submarine contract with French company Naval Group. Technically, they are close neighbours, sharing a long maritime border in the Pacific. While French President Emmanuel Macron didn’t drop by Canberra during his ‘historic’ Pacific tour last month, his visit reinforced that a committed and energised France can complement Australia’s efforts in the region.

In addition to announcing new environmental initiatives, including to protect rainforests, Macron made a powerful statement denouncing malign Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, describing a ‘new imperialism appearing, and a power logic that is threatening the sovereignty of several states—the smallest, often the most fragile’.

Franco-Australian cooperation has bilateral benefits, but just as importantly enhances both countries’ roles as development and security partners for the whole Indo-Pacific. Individually, each state has much to contribute to the region: Australia as an active middle power and France with its significant naval strength. If both Canberra and Paris want to strengthen the regional order and mitigate the effects of strategic competition, they should find ways to jointly cooperate with Southeast Asia—the self-declared epicentre of the Indo-Pacific.

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AUTHORS : Natalie Sambhi is executive director of Verve Research and a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program. Hugh Piper is program lead at the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D). This piece draws on an AP4D report, What does it look like for Australia to enhance coordination with France in the Indo-Pacific, funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre. AP4D thanks all those involved in consultations to produce the report. Image: Department of Defence.


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