The European continent has protested Australia’s 2016 multi-billion dollar subcontract with France and turned to the United States and Britain to find nuclear-powered alternatives.
Wednesday’s announcement by Australia, Britain, and the United States was part of a new security partnership called “AUKUS” (Australia, UK-U.S.). The first initiative involves the delivery to Australia of a nuclear-powered submarine vessel fleet.
France will recall its ambassadors in the United States and Australia to consult on Friday.
“We had established trust relationships with Australia. This trust has been betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Europe & Foreign Affairs, said Thursday. He called the trilateral agreement a “stab in your back”.
While the trilateral move could cause new divisions among transatlantic allies, the international community has expressed concern about nuclear proliferation.
“At the request by the President of The Republic, I decided that I would immediately recall to Paris for consultations the two American and Australian ambassadors. Le Drian stated in a Friday statement that this extraordinary decision was justified by the extreme seriousness of the announcements made by Australia and USA on Sept. 15.
According to French media, it was the first time that France had taken such a decision in its history with regard to the two countries.
The abrupt end of Australia’s largest defense contract has brought back memories for the French of the past U.S. administration. Le Drian stated, “The American behavior concerns me; this unilaterally and brutal decision is very similar what (former U.S. president) Donald Trump was doing.”
Trump’s public sparring with Macron (his French counterpart) was not uncommon on topics ranging anywhere from military spending, trade, climate change, and other regional issues.
“The American decision that excludes a European ally, partner like France from a critical partnership with Australia… signals a lack consistency which France can only regret,” Le Drian and Florence Parly stated in a joint statement on Wednesday.
America is back! The slogan was repeated several times by U.S. President Joe Biden to correct cracks across the Atlantic. This included his first visit to Britain for the Group of Seven summit, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit and the U.S.-European Union summits held in Brussels in June.
TRADE TALKS IN DOUBTS
Clement Beaune, France’s Secretary-of-State for European Affairs, stated earlier Friday that France does not trust Australia in ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union (EU). This was after the AUKUS partnership was revealed.
France 24’s Beaune stated that they are in trade negotiations with Australia. “I don’t see how we can be trusted by our Australian partners.”
Australia and the EU began negotiations for a free-trade agreement in 2018. They have been conducting trade and economic relations since then under the 2008 EU/Australian Partnership Framework.
Both sides have concluded 11 rounds of talks. The next round will take place in autumn.
According to EU data, Australia was the 19th largest EU trading partner in 2020. The EU was Australia’s third-largest trading partner after China and Japan. Next came the United States.
NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION CONCERNED
As a global watchdog of nuclear technology, the International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concern about international concerns regarding the proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies as a result of the trilateral agreement.
It stated that the IAEA would engage with them (Australian, United States, and Britain) in this matter in accordance to its statutory mandate and in accordance their respective safeguards arrangements with the Agency.
Both the United States and Britain are nuclear-weapon state parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This treaty prevents the proliferation of weapons and technologies.
China voiced its opposition to the trilateral agreement on Thursday, calling it a “sheer act nuclear proliferation.”
Britain and the United States “will likely give rise to nuclear material and technology proliferation by openly supporting Australia, as non-nuclear weapons state, in its acquisition and construction of the nuclear-powered submarine,” Wang Qun, a Chinese envoy to United Nations and other international organisations in Vienna, stated.
He stated that such an act of nuclear proliferation would have serious implications for the international efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem as well as the Iranian nuclear matter.
New Zealand has confirmed that Australian submarines will not be allowed to enter its waters. It will maintain its nuclear-free stance.
“New Zealand’s position regarding the prohibition of nuclear powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged,” Jacinda Ardern, the country’s Prime Minister, stated to local news outlet NewsHub.
Gem Romuld, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Nobel Peace Prize-winning Group), stated that “As the World is moving towards making these arms illegal, this is a wrong direction at the wrong moment.”