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Sydney: A European official in Sydney announced that the round of trade negotiations that was scheduled to be held between the European Union and Australia has been postponed for a month, in a move that comes amid Brussels’ anger over Canberra’s cancellation of a huge contract to buy submarines from Paris.
“The round of negotiations on the free trade agreement has been postponed for a month until November,” the official told AFP, in a delay that casts doubt on the fate of these negotiations.
The Australian submarine crisis erupted on September 15 after US President Joe Biden announced the birth of a new defense alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, one of the first fruits of which was the expansion of the technology of American nuclear-powered submarines to include Australia.
In order to obtain these American submarines operating with nuclear propulsion, Australia suddenly canceled a huge contract it had concluded with France to buy 12 conventional submarines, which angered Paris.
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan was scheduled to travel to Europe to participate in this twelfth round of trade negotiations.
In a statement to AFP, the Australian minister played down Brussels’ decision to postpone the negotiating round.
“We understand the French reaction to our decision regarding submarines, but in the end every country must act in its national interest, and this is what Australia did,” Tehan said.
The Australian minister indicated that he intends to meet with EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis next week to discuss trade negotiations between the two parties.
“We will continue to prepare for the twelfth round of negotiations and work towards concluding a free trade agreement that is in the interest of both Australia and the European Union,” he added.
Australia’s business partner
The European Union is Australia’s third largest trading partner.
In 2020, the value of trade in goods between the two economies amounted to 36 billion euros, while the value of trade in services between them amounted to 26 billion euros.
The 12th round of trade talks between the two sides is supposed to cover areas including trade, services, investment and intellectual property rights.