President Joe Biden said his administration should have done a better job of keeping French authorities in the loop as they pursued a landmark nuclear submarine tech-sharing agreement with the UK and Australia.
Speaking on Friday in Rome during a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Biden admitted that the unveiling of the deal – which so angered French authorities that Mr Macron recalled his ambassador from Washington for the first time in history – “was not done with a lot of grace”.
“I think what happened was to use an English phrase … clumsy,” he said.
Mr Biden emphasised that France – a close American ally since the 1780s – is an “extremely valued partner,” and said he had been told that French authorities were given a heads-up that Australia’s government was set to dump a previous agreement to buy French-made diesel-electric submarines in favor of home-built boats propelled by a combination of British and American nuclear technology.
“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not coming through,” he said.
Asked if Mr Biden had done enough to mend the breach in Franco-American relations, Mr Macron told reporters: “We clarified together what we had to clarify.”
“What really matters now is what we will do together in the coming weeks, the coming months, the coming years.,” Mr Macron said. “Now what’s important is to be sure that such a situation will not be possible for our future.”