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The Prime Minister’s Successful European Visit

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Malcolm Turnbull does well on the international stage.

He gets on with all the world leaders and is able to emphasise Australia’s connections with their countries even though they may be at odds with each other.

He had good discussions with President Trump who offered him a ride in the famous presidential armour plated car known as ‘The Beast’.

The talks covered the geo-strategic issues that were somewhat overlooked at the G20 summit itself but which were clearly the focus of the bilateral discussions between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

Apparently he was also able to get Australia an exemption from the US anti-dumping action on steel.

At his press conference in Paris Mr Turnbull was at pains to emphasise that the United States was still a world leader despite the fact that President Trump had been isolated on the issue of climate change and failed to get international action against North Korea at the G20.

The Prime Minister was able to gain endorsement in the G20 communiqué for his anti-terrorism proposals including those related to regulation of social media platforms and the requirement for them to disclose their security codes.

He also supported Indonesia’s push against terrorism which was recognised in the communiqué.

He was also successful in pushing the case for a free trade agreement with the European Union.

At his press conference he announced that a free trade agreement could be signed in 2019.

European Council President Donald Tusk met with Mr Turnbull in Hamburg, telling him the EU was keen to agree on a trade pact with Australia as soon as possible and the pact had a high priority.

“I want to thank you for the support you have given and France has given to advancing Australia’s negotiations to have a free trade agreement with the European Union,” Mr Turnbull said at a joint media conference with President Macron.

“Our commitment and theirs [the EU and EC Presidents], I believe, is to do everything we can to ensure we can get that free trade agreement negotiated over the next 18 months … that is a realistic but ambitious objective.”

The Prime Minister clearly got on well with the new French President Emmanuel Macron.

He and Mrs Turnbull flew to Paris on the President’s jet and had dinner at the Elysée Palace.

Although the catalyst for the meeting between the two was undoubtedly the submarine project, the two leaders clearly shared a range of views including on the environment and economic issues.

Mr Turnbull said that he had had a good discussion with the French President on the subject of pumped hydro as an electricity storage system.

On Sunday the Prime Minister went to Cherbourg to open the DCNS project office for the submarines.

This event has special significance because of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s proposal that Australia consider leasing nuclear submarines.

Speaking at a joint media conference in Paris with Mr Turnbull, President Macron said the bilateral relationship had never been as intense as now, due to the submarine contract.

“It is not simply a contract,” he said.

The decision had national, international and strategic outcomes, as well as providing work for Australian industry.

“I want to tell you how much I am aware that this choice, which honours French industry and French civil and military know-how in this field … [is] a strategic choice, a true partnership and the desire to build a common history in this sector that I can only see as an echo of our past.”

“As President of the Republic, I will do everything to ensure that we make the necessary arrangements to meet the requirements of this contract but, more broadly, to accompany you in this strategic partnership.”

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