Dan Tehan, Australia’s Trade, Tourism and Investment minister for Australia told Sky News Australia on Friday how the French cancelled multiple crunch meetings he was due to have with his counterparts during a recent trip to Europe. Mr Teahn lambasted the French fallout from the Aukus deal which saw President Macron’s watch a €31billion submarine building contract get torn up as Australia formed a security partnership with the UK and the USA.
Mr Tehan explained: “Obviously I wanted to meet with the French trade minister and I was going to meet with their top business group. Both those meetings couldn’t take place.”
And in an embarrassing revelation to President Macron, Mr Tehan said he was only able to “exchange pleasantries” with the French trade minister at the G20 meeting in Italy, admitting that was the only interaction between the two embittered nations of late.
Despite this, Mr Tehan claimed the pair told one another that they “look forward” to catching up when “circumstances allow” as the soaring tension continues over the Aukus deal.
He went on to acknowledge how it is a “difficult time in our relationship with France at the moment” and said it will take time to resolve.
Discussing the Aukus deal, the trade minister noted that while signing the pact was a “tough decision” he stressed there was no alternative when it came to Australia’s national interest and protecting its people.
Mr Tehan continued, saying: “Obviously there wasn’t the circumstances that enabled me to sit down with my French counterpart but I hope in time I will be able to do that.”
The minister was then pushed by Sky’s Rita Panahi as she asked how much longer President Macron’s “tantrum” will continue and when relations could return to pre-Aukus levels.
He replied: “I think it might take some time, there is obviously great disappointment on their side.
The move however enfuriated President Macron who recalled diplomats from the USA in a show of his sheer fury at being snubbed – they have since returned and the relationship with the USA has somewhat been repaired.
Aukus is one of Australia’s biggest defence partnerships in decades and intends to counter growing Chinese military power analysts say.
But following the announcement, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.
While UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pact would “preserve security and stability around the world” and generate “hundreds of high-skilled jobs”. He stressed how the UK’s relationship with France was “rock solid” despite the brutal snub.