Negotiations on Trade Deal Between EU and Australia are Already "Unthinkable" for France
The security pact between Australia, Britain and the United States puts the deal under serious question
Negotiations on a trade deal between the European Union (EU) and Australia face a major challenge due to France's reluctance to participate. Paris' actions are in response to the AUKUS deal signed last week, according to which Australia will buy nuclear submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom. This will make the island nation only the seventh in the world to operate nuclear submarines. The Australian authorities had already reached an agreement with France, and in 2016 they agreed to purchase 12 non-nuclear submarines from France. The contract was for $ 37 billion, but is no longer valid.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the BBC that the decision was made solely on the basis of the final product that his country would receive. "Ultimately, it was a decision of whether the submarines, which are being built at a high cost to the Australian taxpayer, will be able to do the job we need when they enter service. And our strategic assessment, based on the best possible information from intelligence and defense was that they would not do it, "Morrison said. The deal, reached by the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, includes not only vessels, but also the exchange of information on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence.
French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled his ambassadors to Canberra and Washington in response to Australian action, which experts describe as unheard of among strategic partners. "Keeping the word is a condition for trust between democracies and allies," Clement Bonn, the French minister for European affairs, told Politico. "So it is unthinkable to move forward in trade negotiations as if nothing had happened to a country we no longer trust," he added.
Brussels has so far held 11 working meetings with its Australian counterparts, trying to finalize the trade agreement before the end of the year. Preferential access to the European market for Australian farmers has been a key part of the Canberra negotiations, but after recent events it seems that this will be difficult to achieve. The European Commission has, in theory, the right to negotiate on behalf of the 27 members, but France has previously blocked such deals when it deems it justified. In 2016, former President Francois Hollande blocked the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which was negotiated with the United States, and Macron has already once frozen EU-Mercosur talks (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) due to the failure of the Brazilian authorities to reduce the rate of deforestation around the Amazon.
Optimism in London
The tone is very different on the Island, where they are sure that their relations with France will overcome this obstacle. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters that "our love for France is ineradicable" and that there was no cause for concern in Paris. "AUKUS is by no means meant to be exclusive. This is not something anyone should worry about, especially our French friends," the former mayor of London said.
Newly appointed Foreign Minister Liz Truss, meanwhile, believes the deal shows Britain's ability to be "stubborn" when it comes to the country's interests. The creation of hundreds of specialized jobs was also highlighted by Truss in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, in which she defended the actions of the government.
China has criticized the three countries' actions, saying they "show a way of thinking since the Cold War", and North Korea has expressed readiness to launch a nuclear arms race.
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