As President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed at Reunion Island on Oct. 23 in his speech setting out the French strategy in the Indo-Pacific, the French Republic is an Indo-Pacific country.
In this space where we can see the emergence of a continuum of crises, tensions and trafficking, France feels fully committed and intends more than ever to act in close cooperation with all its partners — those who share its values, who support multilateralism and law-based international order, and work toward a safer world, based on inclusive global governance — to address the multiple and common challenges that our country and ASEAN members face.
For France, the Indo-Pacific is a geographic, human, strategic and economic reality because of its presence in the two oceans with its five overseas territories — New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Reunion Island and Mayotte.
More than 1.5 million French citizens live in that area. The cumulative maritime space of these territories represents about 11 million square kilometers, over two-thirds of the French exclusive economic zone, the second-largest in the world after the United States. It is a space in which we maintain a strong military presence that contributes to regional security. Some 8,000 defense personnel are stationed throughout the area, making France the only European power actively present not only in the Pacific but also in the Indian Ocean.
France also has important economic links with the Indo-Pacific, an area that accounts for more than 35 percent of the world’s wealth. In 2018, 9.3 percent of French imports came from the Indo-Pacific region and 10.6 percent of its exports were destined for it.
France, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, promotes a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific space in which it intends to seek synergy with major players in the region and consolidate political, strategic, economic or even environmental cooperation.
In the Indo-Pacific, France intends to contribute to peace, stability and growth by strengthening its partnerships in three sectors fully in line with the priorities of Indonesia and ASEAN (maritime cooperation, connectivity, sustainable development and economy):
• Regional peace and stability: The Indo-Pacific must continue to be an area where the freedom and sovereignty of all countries is respected. France fully plays its role in this area by encouraging crisis resolution through dialogue and the establishment of confidence-building measures. It contributes, in cooperation with its regional partners, to regional security and stability by fighting trafficking in drugs, human beings and illegal fishing, piracy, terrorism and radicalization that threaten the region;
• Sustainable development: Pursuing human development without threatening natural resources is a crucial issue. The development of quality infrastructure, whether for better maritime connectivity, more efficient urban mobility or transition to renewable energy, is essential for long-term development.
The preservation and enhancement of biodiversity, both terrestrial and aquatic, is essential to protecting our planet. The fight against climate change has become a global struggle with the signing of the Paris Agreement, ratified by all countries of the Indo-Pacific space.
On these subjects, France brings its expertise and its financing. From Reunion Island to Indonesia, via India and Vietnam, the French Development Agency provides significant funding and international expertise for the development of renewable energies: solar, wind, hydroelectric. France also contributes to the sustainable development of the blue economy, particularly in Indonesia, where it is financing initiatives to combat illegal fishing, improving the performance of seaports, marine meteorological capabilities and soon ocean research and management of plastic waste at sea.
• Economic cooperation: This axis, closely linked to the sustainable development agenda, aims to develop and improve connectivity and physical and digital infrastructure in a region where the needs are immense. French companies can play an important role in the connectivity of the region, particularly in maritime transportation, port, airport and road infrastructure, satellite and submarine cable telecommunications. Their experience with concessions and public-private partnerships allow them to offer innovative financing solutions.
This economic aspect also involves the development of vocational and/or university training and research, contributing to the strengthening of human capital. In Indonesia, the creation of a center of excellence for vocational training in the fields of electricity, automation and renewable energy is a pioneering model of public-private partnership and is expected to train 500 teachers and more than 100,000 students by 2022.
Last, France supports high-level scientific research and technological innovation, through sustainable cofinancing mechanisms (Nusantara program) and nearly 100 interuniversity agreements for dual degree and diploma
This cooperation, which concretely materializes our commitment in the Indo-Pacific, is accompanied by increased involvement in regional organizations: in the Indian Ocean, the Indian-Ocean Rim Association, of which France has been a partner country since 2001, the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting in which France has participated in as an observer for the first time this year; and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, which we want to join.
On the Pacific side, France has been a member of the Pacific Islands Post-Forum Dialogue since 1989 and founding member of the Pacific Community.
In that respect, ASEAN plays a central role for France in this strategy. Our country was one of the first signatories of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation signed in Bali. More than 150 projects have been supported and 4 billion euros of funding have already been provided by the French Development Agency since 2010 for the sustainable development of ASEAN.
We now wish further consolidate our ties with ASEAN, as shown by our admission as an observer to the ASEAN Chiefs of National Police (ASEANAPOL), as well as our applications for ASEAN development partner status and observer status at the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting in the working groups on maritime security and peace-keeping operations.
Our convergent interests, particularly in the maritime sector in the broad sense, in terms of connectivity and infrastructure, and sustainable development, call for closer cooperation between France and ASEAN countries in the framework of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific adopted at the end of June 2019 at its 34th summit.
The challenges facing this space today call for more collective action, international cooperation, multilateralism, as well as a global vision, as the responses that can be given to them are interdependent. This is the meaning of the French strategy in the Indo-Pacific. In this fundamental space for global stability, France and Indonesia must act together.
Ambassador of France to Indonesia
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.