France’s government went on full offense last week after Australia abandoned the $90 billion AUD ($65 billion USD) deal last week in favor of a new military agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Keeping one’s word is the condition of trust between democracies and between allies,” France’s European affairs secretary Clement Beaune told Politico. “So it is unthinkable to move forward on trade negotiations as if nothing had happened with a country in which we no longer trust,” Beaune added.
France has a track record of being successful in thwarting EU trade agendas via outspoken hostility. The European Commission could theoretically conduct trade talks on behalf of the 27 member countries, though it would be diplomatically untenable for Brussels to move forward in the midst of French disapproval.
French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to speak with President Joe Biden in the coming days, marking the first contact since the major diplomatic dispute erupted last week. The call is reportedly at the request of Biden, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
“At the end of the last round with Australia, which took place in June, it was agreed that the next round would take place in October. This is the current state of play,” said Eric Mamer, chief spokesman for the European Commission. “We are analyzing the impact that the AUKUS announcement would have on this schedule.”
France cancels defence summit with UK as submarine deal fallout continues
France has cancelled a ministerial defence meeting with Britain this week amid an escalating diplomatic row over a nuclear-powered submarine deal.
Paris was left blindsided by the announcement last week of a new trilateral security pact between the UK, US and Australia – known as AUKUS.
It involved Canberra cancelling a £72.8 billion deal with the French for diesel-electric submarines and pursuing a rival plan to acquire nuclear-powered boats with help from the US and Britain instead.
Reacting with fury this weekend, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the UK of “permanent opportunism”, while the French Europe minister Clement Beaune accused Britain of being a vassal state of Washington.