France’s “pivot” to Asia

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Paper by François Godement for the ECFR

Authors : François Godement

Tags : France - Foreign Affairs - China

France is undertaking its own “pivot” to and within Asia. It is both increasing its focus on Asia in order to improve its external trade balance and to attract investment, and diversifying and deepening its political and security co-operation with the region. Its pursuit of exports to Asia echoes German policy, but it is also joining the race for Chinese investment that has been going on for some time in Eastern and Southern Europe and in the UK. France’s bilateral push could undermine the unreserved support that France had previously given to a united European approach on trade and investment.
However, much more than Germany, France has in the last few years also increased security co-operation with Asian countries, in particular with Japan. It has also increased arms sales to the region, which has serious economic and security implications. Future jet fighter procurement by the French air force is in part conditional on a major deal to sell 125 Rafale fighter jets to India. On the other hand, becoming such a major supplier with a long-term commitment creates a liability should a conflict break out. Like other Europeans, France has shied away from any stand on Asia’s territorial issues, but it is becoming more tied than other EU member states to some of the main protagonists.


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A version of this article will appear in French in the Annuaire Asie 2014/2015 published by La Documentation Française in association with Asia Centre under the direction of Jean-Luc Racine.

This paper has been originally published on the website of the ECFR.

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