A pact between the UK, US and Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, and Australia’s subsequent scrapping a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France, could impact trade deal negotiations with the EU. France’s European affairs secretary Clement Beaune said it would be hard for Europe to continue free-trade talks after “such a breach of trust.” So far there have been 11 rounds of free-trade talks between EU and Australia, with Australia originally hoping to reach an agreement by this year end.
While the European Commission has exclusive powers to conduct trade talks on behalf of its members, a glance at the history books shows it is unlikely to happen in the face of French opposition. In 2015, French president Hollande torpedoed the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks with Washington and president Macron is currently not allowing the Mercosur agreement with South American countries to come into force. Without French support, the European Commission is unable to grant Australian farmers preferential market access for beef and dairy products — the core of the deal for Australia.