London Defender

The Daily Mirror of the Great Britain

EU-Australia trade deal on brink: New Zealand open to join AUKUS pact in blow to Macron

The country’s high commissioner to Australia, Dame Annette King said she welcomed increased engagement in the Indo-Pacific by the US and the UK and opened the door for discussions on New Zealand joining the pact.

She said: “We have reiterated our collective objective to deliver peace and stability in our region and the preservation of an international rules-based system.”

When the deal was signed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand would never be involved in the development of nuclear-powered submarines.

But asked whether the country would like to join AUKUS to collaborate on other technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, Dame Annette said: “It’s been made clear to us that other countries are going to be welcome to be involved in other parts of the architecture.

“And cyber is one area that we’d certainly be interested in, but there’s no detail yet – so we will be looking for detail.”

The move would come as a blow to Brussels and French President Emmanuel Macron, who were left out of the new defence partnership by his transatlantic allies.

The European Union has already postponed the next round of free trade talks with Australia for a second time, the Australian trade minister said on Friday, amid simmering anger over Canberra’s decision to cancel a $40 billion contract with France.

Dan Tehan said the 12th round of talks with the EU had been postponed for the second time this month, this time until February 2022.

The talks were previously put off by a month from mid-October.

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In September, Australia cancelled a deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and will instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology, after striking a trilateral security partnership called AUKUS with those two countries.

The cancellation angered France, which accused both Australia and the United States of stabbing it in the back.

Paris recalled its ambassadors from both Canberra and Washington.

In solidarity with France, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen questioned whether the bloc could strike a trade deal with Australia.

The new development comes just weeks after Tehan told Reuters he expected to finalise a free trade agreement with the EU by the end of next year.

Australia has sought to mend relations with the EU and France in recent weeks, appointing a senior aide to Prime Minister Scott Morrison as envoy to the 27-nation bloc.

The French ambassador to Australia returned this week to Canberra where he has said he intends to evaluate Australia’s stated commitment to repairing ties.