France is escalating its disputes with Australia and the US, seeking to derail EU trade talks with both after being dumped from a submarine contract

French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a statement on September 17, 2021 in Athens, Greece.
French President Emmanuel Macron on September 17, 2021 in Athens, Greece. Milos Bicanski/Getty Images
  • France remains furious with Australia and the US after being ditched from a submarine contract.
  • President Macron wants to delay an EU-Australia trade deal and EU-US talks in response, reports said.
  • Other nations have been taken aback at the intensity of the French response to losing the deal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the days since France discovered it was being ditched from a multi-billion deal with Australia to build its new fleet of submarines, its anger has only grown.

The latest sign was a series of reports that French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking to derail a planned EU-Australia trade deal to show its displeasure.

France is also said to be trying to have talks canceled between the EU and US next week.

The Guardian and Politico said that France was seeking support from other EU member states to push back on its behalf in the negotiations.

The move was explicit retaliation for Australia dropping France from the $US50 ($AU69) billion deal to replace its ageing submarines, announcing it would do so with help instead from the US and UK in a new alliance called AUKUS.

The deal infuriated French officials, who said they had been given no warning of the announcement, accusing Australia of a “stab in the back” and of lying to them.

France is also seeking retaliation against the US, whose decision to share secretive submarine technology with Australia helped to scupper the French deal, the Financial Times reported.

An EU diplomat said France had requested to postpone EU-US talks which are planned for September 29 as part of the joint Trade and Technology Council.

The official said other EU countries were reluctant to scupper important talks and would rather “help” France by other means.

A European Commission official told the paper they were “analyzing the consequences of the AUKUS announcement” on the timing of the meeting.

President Joe Biden is said to be seeking a phone call with Macron to make amends, per reports from outlets including The Washington Post and The Hill.

But Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared less conciliatory, saying he would not have time to meet privately with Macron while both leaders are in New York for the UN General Assembly.

“Keeping one’s word is the condition of trust between democracies and between allies,” France’s European affairs secretary Clément Beaune told Politico of the rift.

“So it is unthinkable to move forward on trade negotiations as if nothing had happened with a country in which we no longer trust.”

Talks between Australia and the EU have been hashing out the terms of a free-trade agreement since 2018, and the twelfth round of negotiations are due within months.

Australia is said to have hoped to conclude negotiations by the end of this year.

As one of the EU’s most powerful member states, France could try to stop the deal in its tracks, but it remains to be seen whether Macron will garner enough support from other European countries.

Bernard Lange, chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee, said trade talks were now “much more complicated.”

Australia’s trade minister Dan Tehan meanwhile insisted that the rupture in relations with France would not affect the outcome of the trade deal.

“It’s just very much business as usual when it comes to our negotiations on that free trade agreement,” he told Sky News Australia, per Reuters.

The EU has condemned Australia’s behavior and said it was “surprised” by the abrupt cancellation, but anger in other parts of Europe has been nowhere near the French level of fury.