France Won't Let Go Of Submarine Dispute "Crisis" - Threatens To Torpedo EU-Australia Trade Talks

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021 - 01:40 AM

Over the weekend France's top diplomat continued calling out the United States and Australia over their "duplicity, contempt and lies" after "no warnings" were given ahead of the AUKUS pact, which led Australia to scrap a French submarine order for more than $60 billion.

French President Macron will reportedly hold a phone call within the coming days with President Biden in order to seek clarification from the White House - this after late last week Paris for what's believed to be the first time in history recalled its ambassador to Washington (a dramatic move France also made with Australia, and further canceled a high level defense meeting with the UK).

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's latest scathing criticisms were issued to France 2 television, where he said the move to recall the ambassadors "signifies the force of the crisis today" between France, the US and Australia.

And France's ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault, who has left his post and returned to Paris, said "we felt fooled":

"This was a plot in the making for 18 months. At the same time while we were engaged with making the best of this [submarine] program where France committed its most well-kept military secrets … there was a complete other project that we discovered, thanks to the press, one hour before the announcement. So you can imagine our anger – we felt fooled."

Significantly the dramatic word "crisis" was thrown out there ahead of planned EU-Australia trade talks for later this year which could now be torpedoed in the wake of Paris venting its rage, as CNN relates:

"Keeping one's word is the condition of trust between democracies and between allies," France's European affairs secretary Clément Beaune told Politico. His remarks were confirmed on Monday by a spokesperson. "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.

Free trade negotiations have been ongoing since kicking off in June 2018, with eleven rounds having been held so far, and the next to come within months this fall. 

Importantly EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell late last week had also expressed shock in support of France's position, saying "This alliance we have only just been made aware and we weren’t even consulted," also indicating he only found out through media reports. "As high representative for security, I was not aware and I assume that an agreement of such a nature wasn’t just brought together overnight. I think it would have been worked on for quite a while."

"We regret not having been informed – not having been part of these talks," Borrell added. "We weren’t included, we weren’t part and parcel of this."

According to background by Bloomberg

The EU is Australia's third-largest trading partner, with the total trade in goods accounting for 36 billion euros ($42 billion) last year 2020, according to the Commission. If Macron really wanted to make waves, he could try to block a pact being negotiated by the EU that could increase exports to Australia by up to a third. 

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament Trade Committee Chair has admitted that the AUKUS certainly makes upcoming trade negotiations much more complicated in terms of the desired goal of an EU-Australia agreement.

But at the same time statements out of the UK and Australian governments appear to be downplaying the whole ordeal, and have expressed hope of defusing tensions, also explaining decisions were made with sovereign defense and Australia's best interests in mind. This hasn't kept France from feeling that it's been cut out of Indo-Pacific defense sharing and coordination in efforts to counter China's influence in the region.