EU official says Aussie trade deal delayed by French snub

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Australia’s cancellation of a French submarine contract would complicate and delay negotiations on an Australian-EU free trade deal, a European trade official said on Tuesday.

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Bernd Lang, a German MP and chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, said Australia’s decision to end the 90 billion Australian dollar ($66 billion) deal was “a kind of attack against European interests”.

“It’s more complicated,” Lang told Australian Broadcasting Corp about the talks after the French snub.


“The question of trust is now rising and some members may demand more safety nets and more safeguards in such an agreement, so I think it will take longer to negotiate and negotiate,” Lang said.

He said the agreement would not be signed before elections in France in May next year.

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“It is a question of how serious and how credible Australia is. So there are discussions about how to deal with the trade deal now, but I think there is no clear commitment to stop the talks.

“Now the trust is missing,” he said.

Last week, President Joe Biden announced a new alliance involving Britain that would deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to replace the 12 conventional diesel-electric models the French were to build.

France responded by recalling its ambassadors from the United States and Australia.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Monday that there is a “trust crisis” in the United States.

French Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault on Monday denied media reports that France was lobbying the other 26 EU countries not to sign a trade deal with Australia that has been under negotiation since 2018.

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he “sees no reason why discussions would continue.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to refute French claims that he only knew about the nuclear submarine deal on the day it was announced.

“It would be naive to think that a decision of this nature was not going to cause dismay, obviously, to the French. We understand it. We accept it completely,” said Morrison with Biden and the leaders of India and Japan told reporters in New York City before a meeting, which make up the Quad Security Forum.

“It was not possible for us at that time to be able to discuss such secure issues with regard to our dealings with other countries. We have made it very clear, I have made it very clear that a conventional submarine is no longer our strategic interests and what do we need those boats for. It was communicated very clearly several months ago,” Morrison said.


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