CANBERRA / BRUSSELS: Australia’s Trade Minister said on Monday he would seek to meet with France to ease tensions over Canberra’s decision to cancel a $ 40 billion submarine deal, and was confident it would would not mar the EU-Australia trade negotiations.
However, a leading European Union lawmaker has said Australia’s actions are likely to be reflected in the negotiations.
Australia last week canceled its order for a fleet of conventional submarines from France and said it would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and UK technology as part of the of the new AUKUS security partnership.
France is furious and recalls its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
Australian Minister Dan Tehan told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio on Monday that he would be “very keen” to meet his French counterpart when he visited Paris in October.
And he told Sky News Australia: “It’s business as usual when it comes to our negotiations on this free trade agreement.”
Bernd Lange, chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee, said he did not think the talks should end, but were now “much more complicated”.
There are already significant challenges – from the EU’s demands to incorporate climate change targets and to protect food names such as ‘feta’ to Australia’s wish for the EU to accept more beef and meat. ‘Lamb.
French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said on TUSEN television on Friday that he did not see how Australia could be trusted in trade negotiations.
Lange said EU countries’ willingness to compromise was likely to be “quite limited”, especially for France and especially on agriculture.
He also said a future deal could now contain more penalties for non-compliance.
EU foreign ministers were due to discuss the submarine issue on Monday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at around 10:00 p.m. GMT / 6:00 p.m. EDT.
The next round of trade negotiations is scheduled for October 12.
French Trade Minister Franck Riester’s office said no decision on a possible meeting with Tehan had yet been taken.
Lange noted that the cancellation did not only affect France as Atlas Elektronik, the marine electronics subsidiary of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp, was also part of the deal.
While France has been the most vocal critic of Australia’s defense deal, China – seen as the catalyst for Australia’s decision to acquire new submarines – has also condemned the pact AUKUS.
Relations have deteriorated as Australia banned Chinese Huawei from getting involved in its 5G broadband network and called for an investigation into the origins of the new coronavirus, which has emerged in China.
Beijing responded by preventing imports of Australian products and ceasing all ministerial communications.
But Beijing has also asked to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade bloc – and Tehan said that means he would have to engage with Australia.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Kevin Liffey)