Sydney, Australia, Jun 30 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister announced that negotiations to reach a free trade agreement with the European Union will resume in the coming months, his office reported Thursday.
Anthony Albanese said that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had expressed a desire for the negotiations to restart during a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid on Wednesday.
“It will mean that there will be further talks as soon as October, but perhaps even sooner. We know that in order to progress the agreement, we want to see between now and March real progress,” Albanese told reporters in Madrid, according to a transcript from his office released on Thursday.
The administration of Albanese, who took office at the end of May, believes that the negotiations with the European Union were stalled due to the previous Australian government’s decision to pull out of a contract with a French state company to purchase submarines.
The current Australian government also attributes the almost-year-long stalemate in talks between the European bloc and the Oceanian country to the perception that Australia was dragging its feet on measures to tackle climate change, something that Albanese is trying to rectify.
“I took the opportunity to talk about Australia’s national interest, to talk about our different plans. One of the things that is clear to me is that the whole world has noticed that Australia has a different position on climate change. What that does is give Australia a seat at the global table of opportunity and I intend to seize that opportunity,” Albanese said.
The prime minister said that he had spoken with several leaders during the summit, including United States President Joe Biden, as well as the French president, Emmanuel Macron, whom he will meet in Paris this week in an attempt to reset bilateral relations.
Ties soured in September last year after Australia canceled a contract with France’s Naval Group to build a dozen diesel-powered submarines, for which Canberra will pay AU$835 million ($575 million) in compensation
The deal was canceled when Australia announced in September that it would form the AUKUS alliance with the US and UK, allowing the Oceanian nation access to US technology to build nuclear submarines.
This trilateral security pact aims to counter China’s growing influence in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.
Albanese, who promised to continue providing support to NATO and participate in some military exercises of the alliance later in the year, urged China to “look at what is happening and look at the resolve that is there from throughout the world” with regard to solidarity with Ukraine after its invasion by Russia and said that it “should be condemning Russia’s actions.” EFE