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EU analyzing AUKUS deal's impact on trade talks with Australia: Commission spokesperson

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:39, September 21, 2021

BRUSSELS, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- The European Commission is currently analyzing the impact the new security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (U.S.), dubbed AUKUS, on the next round of its trade negotiations with Australia, a Commission spokesperson said here on Monday.

"We are analyzing the impact that the AUKUS announcement would have" on the schedule of the trade talks between the EU and Australia, said Eric Mamer, the European Commission's chief spokesperson.

The new trilateral partnership has angered France after Australia pulled out of a 56-billion-euro (65.6 billion U.S. dollars) contract. Back in 2016, Australia signed a contract with France for the purchase of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

The AUKUS deal was announced last Wednesday during a joint online press conference by U.S. President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Australia announced on Thursday, one day after the AUKUS deal was made public, that it planned to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines from the U.S. and the UK. French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France considers the deal a "stab in the back".

"This agreement between the UK, Australia and the U.S. relates in particular to military cooperation, which didn't involve the European Union directly, but it did involve a member state. We don't necessarily have all the information at hand, and that's why the president is consulting closely," said Mamer.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with French President Emmanuel Macron this past weekend in Athens to discuss the issue. Von der Leyen is also in close contact with France's European partners and the College of European Commissioners, said Mamer.

The European Commission declined to comment on the impact the AUKUS may have on the EU's relationship with the UK.

The foreign ministers of the EU member states are set to discuss the issue late on Sept. 20 during their traditional meeting on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Launched in June 2018, the negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia saw their 11th round concluded in June this year, with the talks scheduled to continue in October.

"The Commission negotiates on the basis of a mandate from the member states," explained Miriam Garcia Ferrer, the Commission's trade spokesperson.

"The mandate is set at the beginning of the negotiations, and of course at the end of the negotiations the Commission proposes the text of the final agreement for endorsement by the Council and the European Parliament," said Ferrer, adding that "Throughout the negotiations, the Commission is constantly in contact with the member states and the European Parliament."

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