Macron arrives in Australia

Sydney: Emmanuel Macron arrived in Australia on Tuesday on a rare visit by a French president, with the two sides expected to agree on greater cooperation in the Pacific to counter a rising China.
Fresh from meeting President Donald Trump in Washington, Macron touched down for the first foray Down Under by a French leader since Francois Hollande came to Brisbane for a G20 summit four years ago.
His advisers said he wanted to discuss a “common response” to security and climate tensions in the South Pacific, which includes the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Macron told reporters he intends to “anchor” the Franco-Australian relationship “strategically, economically, but also scientifically, culturally and linguistically”.
He described ties between the two countries as historic, recalling how Australian soldiers helped defend France in World War I and II.
France envisages a “strengthened strategic relationship” through a new axis grouping Paris, New Delhi and Canberra, he told reporters.
French Ambassador Christophe Penot said earlier that Paris sees Canberra as a “pivot” for broader involvement in the Indo-Pacific.
“What the president will tell your prime minister is that we are ready and willing to do much more with Australia in the South Pacific,” he told the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.
“We must support the South Pacific islands in their development and give them options when they want to develop infrastructure. “That doesn’t mean we want to oppose China on that. It is just that we want to be complementary and make sure they have all the options on the table.”
Australia’s Lowy Institute estimates China provided $1.78 billion in aid, including concessional loans, to Pacific nations between 2006-16.
Macron will also be keen to talk defence and trade, building on a A$50 billion ($37 billion) deal agreed in late 2016 for France to supply Australia’s new fleet of next-generation submarines.
The French president will on Wednesday sign several cooperation agreements covering health, space, research, universities as well as defence technology, and discuss the common fight against terrorism. — AFP