US President Joe Biden has told France’s Emmanuel Macron that the US was “clumsy” over a security pact signed between the UK, US, and Australia that lost France billions.
It was the first meeting between the two leaders since the Aukus pact – which will let Australia build nuclear-powered submarines – was agreed upon.
Aukus caused a row with France, which lost a $37bn deal with Australia.
Mr Macron said it was important to “look to the future”.
The meeting between the two presidents took place at France’s Vatican embassy in Rome, Villa Bonaparte.
It was part of a series of meetings between the US president and world leaders ahead of the G20 summit of major economies this weekend and next week’s UN climate summit, COP26, in Scotland.
“What we did was clumsy,” Mr Biden said. “I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not going through, honest to God.”
The Aukus pact, which will also cover AI and other technologies, is one of Australia’s biggest defence partnerships in decades and is seen as an effort to counter China.
It scuppered a deal signed by Australia in 2016 for France to build 12 conventional submarines.
At the time, France’s foreign minister called the security pact “a stab in the back”, and France temporarily recalled its US and Australian ambassadors.
Speaking after meeting Mr Biden on Friday, Mr Macron told reporters: “Trust is like love, declarations are good, but the proof is better.” The two leaders also spoke about climate change, counter-terrorism in West Africa and European defence.