Paris has expressed its intention to compete with Beijing’s influence over the Indo-Pacific region using “French strategies”, seemingly taking a page from the United States’ playbook.
On Thursday, the French embassy held an exclusive press interview with Christophe Penot, the French Ambassador for the Indo-Pacific, who was on the Bangkok leg of an Indo-Pacific tour.
Mr Penot explained that his mission while in the region was to discuss France’s localised strategies with its partners and support the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
He said with the rise of Chinese influence over the region, Paris has been trying to promote “French strategies” as an alternative model to China’s.
He said these focus on multilateralism and the rule of law, as well as taking a multi-dimensional approach, as they are intended to promote the idea of an “inclusive Indo-Pacific”.
They are the same as the European Union’s strategies for the region launched in April, which also aim to contribute to stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, via the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and international law, Mr Penot said. France’s strategies are based on four pillars, he noted.
First, the country will enhance its involvement in the settlement of regional crises, the protection of shipping routes and the fight against terrorism, radicalisation and organised crime.
Second, it will strengthen partnerships with major regional players such as Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea, while deepening ties with China, in order to foster greater cooperation and reciprocity.
Third, France will increase its engagement with regional organisations, notably ASEAN, which it views as integral to the architecture of a multi-polar Asia and the emergence of an inclusive Indo-Pacific where no one is left behind and no nation can rise as a hegemon.
Finally, French remains firmly committed to promoting the fight against climate change while actively advocating for environmental biodiversity, health, education, digital technology and infrastructure, Mr Penot said.
Paris will also support the involvement of the EU in the region to foster sustainable development and stability, particularly under its “Connecting Europe and Asia” strategy, he noted.
“ASEAN, EU and French strategies share many similarities, so we will find a way to translate them to the region,” he added.