SSU Forum/GraSPP Research Seminar “The Indopacific – a priority for France”

  • Date:
  • Time:
  • Location:
    Online seminar (Zoom Webinar)
    The Zoom Meeting URL will be delivered by mail on the day before this event.
  • Language:

    English *Japanese simultaneous translation will be provided

  • Hosts:

    Security Studies Unit (SSU), Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI)
    Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSSP)

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“In this webinar, French Ambassador Philippe Setton will present the French government’s strategy and vision of the Indopacific region along with specific examples of cooperation between France and its partners of the region, notably Japan. He will also touch upon the European Union’s engagement in the region, in the context of the French presidency of the Council of the EU in the 1st semester of 2022.”


Philippe Setton, Ambassador of France to Japan (Keynote Speaker)
Kiichi Fujiwara, Professor of Graduate Schools of Law and Politics (moderator)
Yee Kuang Heng, Professor of Graduate School of Public Policy (discussant)

On January 21, 2022, Ambassador Philippe Setton, France’s ambassador to Japan, delivered a webinar presentation hosted by University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Public Policy and the Institute for Future Initiatives’s Security Studies Unit as part of the GraSPP Research Seminar Series and SSU Forum, hosted by Professor Kiichi Fujiwara of SSU with Professor Yee Kuang Heng of GraSPP acting as discussant. Ambassador Setton opened his remarks by reminding the audience that there seven overseas territories in the region inhabited by 1.6 million French citizens, which, along with the region representing 93% of France’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), makes the Indo-Pacific a concrete reality for France. France is also the only European country with a permanent military presence in the region that helps ensure the safety of its citizens and interests, intervene in crises, and helps maintain stability. France is directly impacted by threats from the region like China’s growing role and China-U.S. competition, and open flows of trade and data.
France was the first EU country to articulate an Indo-Pacific strategy in May 2018, which was updated in July 2020. It is based around four pillars: security & defense, the promotion of multilateralism and the rule of law, the promotion of global public goods, and the promotion of France’s economic interests. France has been pushing the European Union to adopt its own strategic framework to assert an EU presence in the region since a collective response is necessary to face the challenges emanating from the region. The EU tabled a joint strategic communication in September 2021, identifying seven key areas of emphasis, and now needs work on concrete implementation. France’s presidency of the Council of the EU will host a ministerial meeting in February that will focus on security & defense, connectivity issues, and global issues like health, climate change, biodiversity & marine health, and more, and Ambassador Setton said that each point of emphasis should be matched with concrete action.
Japan is a major partner for France and the EU and both countries share interests and values that converge in particular in their goals for the Indo-Pacific. A bilateral working group has been established to identify areas for concrete action. While cooperation has been very dense in security & defense and the level of joint exercises has risen over time, France believes it is necessary to set a more robust legal framework to guide defense cooperation, an idea that was discussed positively at the 2+2 meeting the evening before the event. French authorities have voiced strong reactions concerning the AUKUS agreement because of the way it was negotiated and which demonstrated a lack of consultation, and raised questions about how the participating countries treat their allies. Yet the episode has not affected France’s interests and priorities in the Indo-Pacific and it continues to pursue a multifaceted approach. The emergence of China as a great power cannot be ignored, though for France this is not a question of maintaining an equidistance between China and the United States but in the steady promotion of its own interests.
Professor Heng responded to Ambassador Setton’s remarks, asking how France might be able to prioritize its interests in the Indo-Pacific given its extensive commitments throughout the world, how the EU might better coordinate with Japan on military exercises, whether there are any new synergies on the EU’s Global Gateway Initiative, and finally if the Ambassador could elaborate on what France is doing with Japan on economic security in the Indo-Pacific. Ambassador Setton responded that France’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific is not new and the country has maintained a regional presence for years that is now increasing and taking new dynamics into account and France has the capability to deploy across many theaters. Given that many countries are involved in the region, all confronted with the same challenges and aware of the same threats, France will maintain its involvement on a national-basis, will promote European involvement, for example by way of a synchronized EU maritime presence in the region among those states willing to act. On infrastructure, the aim is to work within the framework of the Global Gateway Initiative which can help mobilize “Team Europe.” There is still work to be done between member states and institutions to select specific projects, though there may be more clarity after the February ministerial.
In the discussion period that followed, Ambassador Setton reiterated France’s “One China” policy when asked about France’s potential role in a crisis in the Taiwan Straits and emphasized that disputes need to be resolved through dialogue. Referring to the volcanic eruption in Tonga on January 15, he said that France had not yet received an official request for aid but was already preparing for assistance to be sent. Regarding New Caledonia’s possible independence, he said that there had been three referendums on independence that had all led to a rejection of independence, but that there is a need for continued political talks to build a renewed shared project in New Caledonia.

=Part1:Keynote Speech=

=Part2:Discussion / Q&A=