President Biden conceded to French President Emmanuel Macron that the U.S. handling of an arms deal with Australia that led to the cancellation of an agreement between Canberra and France had been “clumsy.”
The defense arrangement, in which the U.S. announced it would give nuclear submarine technology to Australia, resulted in France losing a major submarine contract with Australia. French officials said they were caught off guard by the announcement, and briefly pulled their ambassador from Washington over the issue.
As they chatted in front of reporters before a meeting at France’s embassy to the Holy See in Rome, a contrite Biden told Macron, “What happened was, to use an English phrase — what we did was clumsy. It was not done with a lot of grace. I was under the impression certain things had happened that hadn’t happened.”
Asked what exactly that was, Biden said, “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not coming through. Honest to God, I did not know that you had not been.”
Biden then told Macron that the U.S. views France as “an incredible, valued partner,” and that “we have no older and no more loyal, no more decent ally than France.”
Macron, responded that “we clarified together what we had to clarify. The U.S. was not the only party at stake,” as Biden stated. Macron continued, “And now what’s important is precisely to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future.” He called for stronger coordination and cooperation between the two nations.