By Gavin Jones
ROME (Reuters) – Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Friday he planned to finalize a free trade deal with the European Union by the end of next year, despite the anger of the ‘EU facing Canberra’s cancellation of a submarine contract with France.
Brussels postponed the latest round of talks, which was due to start Oct. 12, to November in solidarity with France after Australia quashed the multibillion-dollar deal that Paris saw as the cornerstone of its Indo policy. peaceful.
Instead, he secretly negotiated the construction of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology as part of a trilateral security pact between the three countries announced last month.
Tehan, in Italy for a meeting of the Group of 20 developed countries, told Reuters in an interview that he was not concerned about the delay in talks, and reaching an agreement was strongly in the interests of both sides.
When asked when he expected it to be finalized, he said: “I suggest it is likely that the end of the game will take some time and we will look towards the end of the year. next to conclude negotiations. “
He downplayed the damage to EU-Australia relations caused by the submarine dispute and said he had had “very good discussions” with seven EU ministers at a meeting this week of the Organization for Cooperation and Development. economic development in Paris.
It will be more difficult to reestablish ties with France, which has described Australia’s actions in moving away from the naval deal as a “stab in the back” and has so far refused any discussion for fix things.
Tehan said Australia has issued an opening to France.
“The most important thing is that we sit down so that Australia can fully explain the decision we took because it was in our national interest,” he said.
France announced the week of October 6 that it would return its ambassador to Australia to help redefine relations after recalling him for consultations in protest.
On the environment, Tehan dismissed criticism of Australia for failing to develop updated carbon reduction targets ahead of next month’s UN climate talks, COP 26, in Glasgow.
He said the plan presented by Canberra in Glasgow to “hopefully” achieve net carbon emissions by 2050 was more detailed than those of many countries which had ambitious targets but did not explain in detail how they were. would realize.
Tehan said Australia was pushing for the major contribution of agricultural subsidies to carbon emissions to be addressed by the G20 and the World Trade Organization.
He said agriculture and land use accounted for 25% of emissions and it was recognized that it would be impossible for countries to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets unless the issue was addressed. be addressed.
“So when it comes to issues that will help us reduce climate change, we are at the forefront of pushing for action,” he said.
($ 1 = € 0.8654)
(Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by John Stonestreet)