News National Emmanuel Macron arrives for Australian visit as French protests turn ugly

Emmanuel Macron arrives for Australian visit as French protests turn ugly

Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull in Australika
Mr Macron is just the second French head of state to visit Australia. Photo: AAP
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French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off his first visit to Australia by dining with the Turnbulls at the Sydney Opera House as protests against his economic policies turned ugly in Paris.

Mr Macron arrived at Sydney Airport on Tuesday evening to start a three-day visit, which is expected to focus on trade, defence and strategic issues.

Shortly after the meeting between the heads of government, French riot police were forced to use water cannon and tear gas against hundreds of hooded protesters after they smashed shop windows and hurled petrol bombs at the start of a May Day rally in Paris.

Mr Macron, elected last May on a promise to shake up France’s economy and spur jobs growth, is locked in a battle with trade unions over his plans to liberalise labour regulations.

French authorities said around 1200 hooded and masked protesters dressed in black turned up on the sidelines of the planned May Day demonstration against Mr Macron’s policies by labour unions.

The protesters smashed the windows of businesses, ransacked shops, torched cars and scrawled anti-capitalist graffiti on walls.

The May Day protests were intended to send a message of defiance to the former investment banker.

More than 200 anarchists were arrested, the head of Paris’ police department, Michel Delpuech, told a news conference.

Emmanuel Macron protesters
Mr Macron’s economic policies were the focus of the French protests. Photo: EPA

In Australia, Mr Macron is expected to pay respects to fallen Australian soldiers in Sydney on Wednesday morning before meeting the Governor-General later in the day to discuss research collaborations between the Australian National University and the French space agency CNES.

“We will celebrate our common history,” Mr Macron told reporters outside the Opera House on Tuesday night.

“We will work together on a very important partnership in the region, in the indo-Pacific. And we will work together in order to develop our economic links,” he said.

The President and Prime Minister are expected to address the media on Wednesday afternoon.

Talks between Mr Macron and Mr Turnbull are expected to focus on trade and defence issues, including French firm Naval Group’s contract to build Australia’s new fleet of 12 submarines in Adelaide.

China’s growing influence in the South Pacific will also be discussed.

In his speech at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday night, Mr Macron said climate change would also feature in the talks.

Australia’s commitment to climate change action and French resistance to a European Union-Australian free trade deal are likely to be sensitive issues in bilateral discussions.

The Australian trip is Mr Macron’s first visit Down Under and just the second French head of state.

Mr Macron hosted Mr Turnbull at the Elysee Palace in Paris in 2017.

Former President Francois Hollande made a state visit to Australia in November 2014 in the lead-up to Australia hosting the G20 Summit.

After his short visit to Sydney, Mr Macron will travel to New Caledonia to rally support for the territory remaining part of France when residents go to a referendum in early November.

-with AAP

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