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‘Business as usual’ in trade talks with EU, says Australian trade minister

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Negotiations between the EU and Australia on a future trade deal are not being hamstrung by France’s fury at losing a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Canberra, Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan told local media Monday.

“It’s just very much business as usual when it comes to our negotiations on that free trade agreement,” Tehan told Sky News. “Everything points to fact that it’s in both the European Union and Australia’s interests that we continue that FTA.”

On Sunday, Clément Beaune, France’s European affairs secretary, told POLITICO that the EU could hardly continue talks after such a breach of trust. Bernd Lange, who chairs the European Parliament’s trade committee, also said the deal was in trouble.

But French Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thébault, whom Paris recalled home over the weekend, said his country is not actively lobbying the EU to abandon the trade deal. “At this stage negotiations do continue and there is a strong interest … for Australia to have a free trade agreement with the EU,” Thébault told U.S. media from Paris.

Brussels and Canberra have already held 11 rounds of trade talks on the FTA, and Australia had hoped to conclude the accord before the end of the year. Tehan said Monday that “all the signals” continue to point to the EU wanting to continue talks, and the “12th round will go ahead.”

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Barbara Moens

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