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Media release

10 January 2008

Diplomatic Appointment - Ambassador to France

I have confirmed the appointment of Mr David Alexander Ritchie as Australia’s new Ambassador to the French Republic. Mr Ritchie will succeed Ms Penny Wensley AO who has been Ambassador since March 2005. Mr Ritchie is expected to take up his appointment in March 2008.

France is a country of considerable importance to Australia. A permanent member of the UN Security Council, one of the G8 group of nations, a key member of the European Union and NATO and a Pacific neighbour, France’s role and views matter to Australia on a wide range of bilateral, regional and multilateral issues.

Political cooperation and dialogue between Australia and France have developed significantly in recent years. We have expanded our exchanges on environment and energy matters and on efforts to combat terrorism. Defence links have been enhanced by the signing of a Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2006 and a program of regular talks and exchanges between our armed forces and other defence groups.

Australia welcomes France’s presence and active engagement in the Pacific and values France's contribution to regional stability, natural disaster relief and to development in the Asia-Pacific region generally. Our two countries enjoy high-level strategic dialogue on security, foreign policy and economic issues that is supported by a broad framework of treaties and agreements, including in the areas of maritime surveillance and the prevention of illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Australia and France enjoy substantial trade and investment links which have been growing strongly in recent years. France is an important source of direct investment and technology for Australia, including in the defence industries sector. Bilateral merchandise trade in 2005-06 was valued at over A$6 billion. France is also a major source country for both working holiday makers and tourists to Australia Cultural exchanges are developing strongly, with a steady growth of interest in France in Australian culture, including contemporary indigenous culture.

Mr Ritchie is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was most recently First Assistant Secretary, Pacific Division. He has served as Deputy Head of Mission in London, High Commissioner in Colombo and High Commissioner in Apia. In Canberra, Mr Ritchie has held a range of positions including First Assistant Secretary, Pacific, Middle East and Africa Division, First Assistant Secretary, Americas and Europe Division, Assistant Secretary in the Office of Pacific Island Affairs and Speechwriter.

A 1970 Rhodes Scholar, Mr Ritchie holds degrees from the University of Tasmania and the University of Oxford and a Graduate Diploma in Economics from the Australian National University. Mr Ritchie is a fluent French speaker and has studied at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in Paris. Mr Ritchie is married with four children.

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