Australia-EU trade deal would benefit Brussels in Indo-Pacific, Canberra says, after ditching French submarine contract

An Australian-EU pact would be beneficial both for Canberra and Brussels in the Indo-Pacific, Trade Minister Dan Tehan has said, as Australia scrambles to make amends with France after ditching a submarine deal.

On Wednesday, Tehan said at a press conference in the Australian capital that a full trade agreement between Canberra and Brussels is “in the best interests of all parties”.

Explaining how the agreement would be beneficial for Brussels, the trade minister remarked that “the EU will use it as a way to strengthen its engagement with the Indo-Pacific because they realize that the region carries the economic weight of the world.”

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French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and US President Joe Biden, September 20, 2021.
‘Breach of confidence:’ French FM denounces AUKUS deal, says Europeans need to rethink alliances and partnerships

While the next round of negotiations on a trade deal are to be held on October 12, the talks come as relations have deteriorated after Canberra announced last week that it was ditching a $40 billion submarine agreement with Paris in favor of a pact with the UK and US for nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed, vessels.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison remarked on Tuesday that he would not be speaking with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the United Nations this week. “There is not an opportunity for that at this time”, he told reporters in New York, but said he was “sure that opportunity will come in time”.

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FILE PHOTO: Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Sheean arrives in Devonport on April 22, 2021 in Tasmania, Australia. © POIS Andrew Dakin/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images
‘Not acceptable’: EU chief criticizes treatment of France by AUKUS nuclear sub pact

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen defended France while speaking to CNN on Monday. “One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable”, the EU chief said, stating that the three countries have “a lot of open questions” to answer to.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the same day remarked that France, and Europeans in general, must take “serious reflection… on the very concept that we have of alliances and partnerships.”

Besides expressing that it felt “stabbed in the back” by the trilateral AUKUS pact, France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra last week for consultations. Paris also cancelled celebrations for the anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, a 1781 French naval victory over the British that helped American colonists win their independence.

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