Harris says she and Macron did not discuss sub deal that caused rift

Associated Press / Christophe Ena

Vice President Harris said Friday that she and French President Emmanuel Macron did not discuss a submarine deal with Australia that caused a rift between the U.S. and France during their meeting earlier this week.

“That was not the purpose of this trip and we didn’t discuss it,” Harris told reporters during a press conference on Friday when asked if she thought she succeeded in repairing relations with France. “What we did discuss is the issues that are challenging us and the issues that are the basis for this relationship and the strength and the endurance of this relationship.”

During her press conference, Harris referred to about a dozen different topics that she and Macron discussed during their nearly two-hour meeting on Wednesday, including global health, space exploration, supply chain issues and Indo-Pacific security.

While she said the two did not discuss the submarine issue specifically, the vice president also made a point to emphasize both the administration’s focus on bolstering alliances and the importance of the U.S.-France relationship during her answer. 

Harris said she and Macron discussed their “perspective on alliances and the strength of alliances and the importance of paying attention to those relationships and understanding the strength of them but also the fragility of them, meaning we can’t take relationships for granted.”

“My presence here is a reflection of the priorities the United States has as it relates to France,” she added. 

Harris’s trip to France was widely viewed as part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to heal the bilateral relationship after France was caught off guard by a new pact, called AUKUS, between the U.S., U.K. and Australia on Indo-Pacific security that involves helping Australia field nuclear-powered submarines. French officials were angered by the pact because it robbed France of a lucrative defense contract with Australia.

President Biden met with Macron two weeks ago in Rome ahead of the Group of 20 summit, lauding the bilateral relationship and acknowledging that his administration’s handling of the AUKUS pact was “clumsy.” He also insisted he was not aware that France was not given a heads-up to the agreement.

Following their meeting, Harris unveiled a new partnership with France on space and said the U.S. would support the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.

In addition to her meeting with Macron, Harris also visited the Institut Pasteur, delivered remarks at the Paris Peace Forum, participated in events to mark Veterans Day and Armistice Day and is scheduled to attend an international conference on Libya before returning back to the U.S. 

Tags Emmanuel Macron France-U.S. relations French President Emmanuel Macron Joe Biden Nuclear submarine deal Paris vice president

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