The repercussions of canceling Australia’s submarine deal with France are unlikely to fade anytime soon, especially the way Australian President Scott Morrison canceled the contract and informed French President Emmanuel Macron by SMS.
The Kiwis’ efforts to appease Paris and push for closer economic ties with the European Union (EU) have been met with challenges as the bloc nodded at French demand and delayed by a month a long-standing Brussels-Canberra trade deal, casting doubts on the future of the far-reaching treaty.
Read more: EU postpones trade talks with Australia as submarine line intensifies
It is a result in sight
The last-minute rift between Australia and France had already put trade talks at risk and left European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wondering whether the EU would be in a position to strike a trade deal with the Australia in solidarity with France.
The AKUS rebuttal was so shocking; this forced France, generally a country savvy towards its allies and enemies, to be diplomatically bitter. Paris compared US President Joe Biden’s “one-sided, brutal and unpredictable decision” through the press with Donald Trump who often knowingly vilified US partners on Twitter, including Macron whom he privately called “bad.” guys”.
Washington hoped that the phone call between Macron and Biden and the return of the French ambassador to America would bring heavy Franco-American relations back to normal, anticipating that the former would soften its position on Europe’s strategic autonomy. But the French president continues to be stubborn in his desire as he asks Europeans to “stop being naïve” and expresses himself on the defense of regional interests and the development of military capabilities.
Australia’s postponement of trade talks sparked controversial debate
The opposition blasted Morrison for his failure “to do the diplomatic work necessary to manage relations with our French partners”. Criticism followed after former Kiwi Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that the “appalling ‘no-frank episode’ will last to our disadvantage for a very long time.”
Read more: Former Australian Prime Minister claims his successor cheated France on nuclear submarines
Turnbull’s fears are not unfounded. While the breach of the “contract of the century” would have economic implications for the French defense sector, the abandoned submarine deal also clashed with Macron’s campaign for a second term at just under seven. month of presidential elections in the country.
France is the 7th largest economy in the world and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The economic and strategic importance of Paris as well as its strong defense characteristics – a nuclear weapon nation with the 6th defense budget in the world, which has the most powerful army in Europe and is an important factor in the Pacific – takes as a whole the shine Australia in the ongoing clashes and describes the critical role of France in regional and transnational affairs.
Canberra’s lackluster attempts to send a message of defiance to Paris, which would stun the entire EU, have led to this diplomatic policy on the brink of collapse. Morrison’s reluctance to speak to Macron and his insistence on following his schedule further forced the Elysee Palace to have only a “substantive conversation”. This breakdown in communication sparked hyperalgesia in French, prompting them to call their abandonment “an Australian punch, a late American tackle and a British glance”.
All is not going well for Canberra either
The reason Australia abandoned a $ 43 billion deal with Paris, according to Morrison, is nuclear submarine technology that was not previously available. But with the first of the French submarines slated to be in the waters in 2032, Australia won’t have any new submarines for the next 20 years. This means that the Australian sub-program would hold up for at least two decades and by then even nuclear submarines could be obsolete or visible to countries like China whose technology has reached an advanced level to detect. and destroy Australia. under.
The US, UK and Australia have launched the new strategic alliance, UKUS, against China. Remember, Australia’s strategic strategy in 2016 admired Beijing’s continued economic growth and the opportunities it presented to Canberra and other Indo-Pacific countries. Canberra even pledged to expand defense relations with Beijing through personnel exchanges, military exercises and practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
Read more: Australia sets conditions for China’s accession to the Pacific Pact
Although Australia’s strategic defense update for 2020 appears to align with US policy in China and accuses Beijing of pursuing greater influence in the region, Canberra has bypassed to upset Beijing and has kept the focus on Sino-American strategic competition in its immediate region: “stretching from the northeast Indian Ocean through maritime and mainland Southeast Asia to Papua New Guinea and the Southwest Pacific.
Even though Australia has jumped on the US bandwagon to counter China in the region, Morrison said UKUS will provide stability in the Indo-Pacific. Clearly, Australia does not want to sandwich itself between the existing and emerging superpowers of the world in the event of a military outbreak. This Australian approach of non-confrontation partly coincides with that of the EU where a large European majority sees the growing Sino-American rivalry for the emergence of Beijing as a new geopolitical reality.
Canberra’s economic stakes in Beijing are much higher than in Brussels
China has been Australia’s largest export market and remains the main destination for Australian products despite ongoing trade and political tensions. By comparison, China is the largest source of imports for the EU with which it has a trade deficit; Nevertheless, the bloc is committed to securing trade and investment relations between Beijing and Brussels.
But when it comes to diplomacy and the realistic balance of relations with China and the United States, Australia is faring badly against the EU. Unlike Brussels which has come under pressure but has not taken a stand to protect its links with major economies, has kept lines of communication open and has sought to deepen cooperation with Beijing in the Indo-Pacific amid strife. , the Morrison administration has completely failed to do the groundwork necessary to prevent Canberra from getting caught between the two behemoths. The count increases to three with the addition of the EU.
Read more: In escalation of submarine deal, France recalls emissaries from the United States and Australia
Morrison’s diplomatic blunder comes at a cost, which Turnbull says will hamper Australia’s relations with Europe for years. As this stalemate could even last for decades, and Canberra has yet to suffer a real pinch of the trade war with Beijing, the Kiwi government is on the verge of losing more than two dozen allies in Europe and has effectively mortgaged it. economic future of his country just at the stroke of the pen in Washington.
Azhar Azam writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts and is an opinion contributor to CGTN, News24, The mail & Guardian, New Straits Times, Bangkok Post and Express Tribune (partner of the New York Times International). The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.