French President Emmanuel Macron has scolded China for using economic coercion to bully and intimidate Australia.
He described the rising superpower’s tactics as a flagrant breach of international law and declared France stood with Australia.
Mr Macron offered the public backing after welcoming Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Paris on Tuesday (local time).
The pair held a working dinner at Mr Macron’s official residence, the Elysee Presidential Palace.
“You are at the forefront of the tensions that exist in the region, of the threats, and sometimes of the intimidation, and I want to reiterate here how much we stand by your side,” he said.
“I would like to reiterate how committed France remains to defending the balance in the Indo-Pacific region and how much we consider the partnership we have with Australia is essential in the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
Mr Macron said the instability required a global response.
“We firmly reject any coercive economic measures taken against Australia in flagrant violation of international law,” he said.
Mr Morrison described Australia and France as good friends and partners.
“No one understands liberty more than the French,” he said.
“Affinity is the word we use to describe our partnership – an affinity across so many areas of the relationship.
“Every element of our partnership is about reinforcing the values and beliefs we hold dearly.”
Mr Morrison highlighted combined efforts to counter terrorism and a recent joint naval exercise through the South China Sea.
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Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also backed Australia in its struggle with China.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends,” Mr Johnson said in London.
“But I probably speak for Scott as well when I say nobody wants to descend into a new Cold War with China – we don’t see that as the way forward.
“This is a difficult relationship where it is vital to engage with China in as positive a way as we can.”
Asked what behaviours concerned him the most, Mr Johnson highlighted China’s human rights record in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and its behaviour towards Australia and other regional neighbours.
China has launched trade strikes against more than $20 billion worth of Australian exports in response to a range of political grievances.
The strong comments from the British and French leaders came after the G7 summit condemned Beijing for human rights violations and its “non-market policies and practices” that undermine the global economy.