Blinken visits France to revitalize the Transatlantic Alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Paris, his first trip to France following a strengthened trilateral security partnership known as AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) which has exacerbated tensions between the transatlantic allies.

Experts said they expect Blinken, who has close personal ties to France, to use the upcoming trip to try and improve US-France relations.

The senior US diplomat will chair the Ministerial Council meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on October 5-6 and commemorate the organization’s 60th anniversary.

Blinken will have a bilateral meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris. France is expected to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union from January 1 to June 30, 2022.

“Secretary Blinken will also meet with his French counterparts to continue discussions on strengthening vital relations between the United States and France on a range of issues, including security in the Indo-Pacific region, the climate crisis, economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic. relationship and work with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities, ”the State Department said in a statement Friday.

Tensions around the AUKUS agreement

The administration of US President Joe Biden announced a new security pact with Australia and the United Kingdom on September 15. Under the deal, Australia will get at least eight nuclear submarines to be built in the country using US technology. The deal came after Australia withdrew from an earlier deal with France for diesel-electric submarines, angering Paris.

France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia within two days of the announcement. Le Drian said there was a “crisis of confidence” in the United States.

After a phone call between President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron on September 22 aimed at easing tensions over the submarine deal, the two leaders decided to “open a process of extensive consultations” to ensure the “confidence”. Macron also decided that French Ambassador Philippe Etienne would return to Washington the following week.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan Thursday met Etienne at the White House to “continue to push forward the shared agenda”, before Biden’s meeting with Macron in Europe at the end of October. Both are expected to attend the Group of 20 summit in Rome at that time.

“We have to make sure that the trust is there,” Karen Donfried, the recently confirmed new Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, said in a telephone briefing on Friday.

While the US-France relationship remains important to both sides, James Goldgeier, visiting principal researcher at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said the Biden administration “appears to have been a bit baffled by the angry French reaction.” . to the AUKUS agreement.

“It’s good that the two presidents are looking for ways to move forward. There is no doubt that the Biden administration sees the Indo-Pacific as its primary focus. US policy towards regions like Europe is seen through this lens, ”Goldgeier told VOA.

The State Department said in a statement that the US delegation to the October OECD ministerial meeting also includes the president’s special climate envoy John Kerry and US trade representative Katherine Tai.

OECD & China

The OECD gathering will discuss the climate crisis, promoting the transition to net zero emissions, as well as market economy principles while continuing its commitment to shared values ​​such as democracy, rule of law and human rights.

A senior State Department official said that another focus at the next OECD meeting is the Blue Dot Network, a mechanism to certify infrastructure projects that meet strict international quality standards.

The United States, Japan and Australia launched the Blue Point Network in 2019. Named for viewing Earth from space as a mere ‘blue dot’, it encourages development by certifying public-private investments in global infrastructure that are market-driven, transparent and sustainable. environmental.

“The administration is very interested in engaging like-minded partners and allies to talk about the behaviors of non-market economies, including China,” said Matt Murray, senior official in the Office of Economic and Trade Affairs in the Department of ‘State, during a telephone interview. briefing Friday.

Murray told VOA that China will attend the next OECD meeting as an observer.

“Regardless of the Ministerial Council meeting, and more generally, the US government has undertaken a comprehensive review of US-China trade relations because the US supports healthy and fair competition with our trading partners . And economic competition with the PRC should be fair, ”Murray added.

Blinken heads to Mexico

Blinken’s week-long trip also includes a stop at Stanford University, as well as meetings in Mexico City from October 7-8 for the high-level security dialogue between the United States and Mexico.

The top US diplomat will join US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and US Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss security issues, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said this week.

The high-level meeting comes amid a recent migration crisis as tens of thousands of Haitian migrants gathered at the US-Mexico border last month.

The Biden administration confirmed on September 24 that a makeshift camp where 15,000 Haitian migrants braved desperate conditions along the US-Mexico border was now vacant.

At the end of September, Mexico also began repatriating Haitian migrants to their country of origin.

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