PARIS — Naval Group, a French shipbuilder, sought to play down media reports of a potential collapse of talks for a major contract with Australia for 12 ocean-going submarines, with elections looming next year in the Commonwealth nation.
“We are in the process of pursuing the strategic partnering agreement,” a Naval Group spokesman told Defense News. That agreement covers some 30 years and is an extremely close commitment, he added.
“It is plain logic that that takes time,” he said. “We are not particularly worried. We remain confident."
Naval Group is working under a 2016 design and mobilization contract on the Australian future submarine program, while negotiating the strategic partnering agreement. The latter is a critical contract which moves the French company closer to building the diesel-electric boats in Adelaide under an Australian $50 billion (U.S. $36 billion) deal.
There is concern that failure to reach consensus on intellectual property and warranty conditions have held up a signing of the strategic partnering agreement, with time running out, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
“Negotiations on that document have stalled and it is feared they may not be resolved before next year’s federal election,” ABC reported. Signing the strategic partnering agreement by the end of this year is needed to allow detailed design contracts to be finalized and building of the boats, the broadcaster reported.
In Australia, Defense Minister Christopher Pyne sought to calm the waters with an Oct. 1 reply on social media.
“There is no delay to the delivery of 12 Future Submarines. Negotiation of strategic partnering agreement is continuing & we will ensure we end up with an equitable & enduring agreement to deliver the capability our servicemen & women need, and get the best deal for Australian taxpayer.”
Nigel Pittaway in Melbourne, Australia contributed to this report.