The Indo-Pacific: a priority for France


In an international context marked by uncertainty and rising unilateralism, France’s priority is to propose an alternative: a stable, multipolar order based on the rule of law and free movement, and fair, efficient and inclusive multilateralism. The Indo-Pacific is central to this strategy.

A crucial region given global challenges

For France, the Indo-Pacific space is a geographical reality. It is present through its overseas departments, regions and communities [1], which have a total population of 1.65 million. The Indian and Pacific Oceans are home to 93% of the French exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Some 150,000 French nationals also live in the region’s countries, and over 7,000 French subsidiaries are present. A total of 8,300 French service members are present in pre-positioned forces.

The Indo-Pacific is increasingly becoming the key strategic region of the 21st century. The rise of China has shaken up traditional balances. While a certain number of threats remain , such as nuclear proliferation, transnational organized crime, jihadist terrorism, piracy and illegal fishing, Chinese-American competition is intensifying and generating new tensions.

The global economy’s centre of gravity has shifted towards the Indo-Pacific. Six members of the G20 (Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea) are located in the region. The region’s shipping lanes have become predominant, and the leading global growth potential is in the Indo-Pacific, which will account for some 60% of global GDP by 2030. These countries’ increasing importance in trade and global investment is even greater in the post-COVID-world.

The Indo-Pacific also remains highly vulnerable when it comes to environmental and climate challenges. It is home to major CO2 emitters, while island States in both oceans face a direct existential threat from climate change.

Central to France’s vision for a stable and inclusive multipolar order

The importance of these issues, which have a direct impact on the prosperity and security of France and EU countries, makes a coherent and structured approach particularly relevant. The Indo-Pacific has become a priority of France’s international action.

In his speech at the Garden Island naval base in Sydney, Australia, on 2 May 2018, President Macron set out France’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific and its ambition to promote an inclusive, stabilizing approach based on the rule of law and the refusal of any form of hegemony. In his closing address at the Choose La Réunion Summit in Saint-Denis on 23 October 2019, the President also highlighted the promotion of France’s overseas countries and territories and their regional integration in our Indo-Pacific strategy.

In 2019, the Ministry for the Armed Forces adopted its France and Security in the Indo-Pacific strategy, which aims to strengthen the action of its sovereignty forces and presence forces, to contribute to the fight against proliferation, to foster stronger regional institutions and partnerships, to consolidate the strategic autonomy of France’s partners in South-East Asia, and to contribute to Indo-Pacific environmental risk mapping.

The concept of the Indo-Pacific space has gained ground among regional actors. France shares a vision with its main partners, including India, Australia, Japan and ASEAN, which includes the aim of maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific space. That is also the vision of the European Union, and the basis for the drafting of its own strategy.

Updated: November 2022

[1Mayotte and La Réunion islands, Scattered Islands and French Southern and Antarctic Territories, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia.