Umm Muhammed Umar
The French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, said that Australia having leaked French President Emmanuel Macron’s text messages to the media was a “new low”. Thebault warned other world leaders that their private communications with the Australian government could be ‘weaponized’ and used against them.
Author, academic, and research specialist, Sanusha Naidoo, said in an interview with Radio Islam, that following the whole submarine debacle after Australia decided to cancel a submarine contract with the French, and go for a nuclear deal on submarines with the UK and the US, the French feel that they’ve been betrayed. Naidu says they feel that it was an abrupt cancellation, without any discussion around it. Diplomatic ties between Canberra and Paris have begun to get into unprecedented waters, and, according to Naidu, it’s weakening the bilateral relationship between the two sides. Macron sent a text to the Prime Minister of Australia implying that he had lied about the deal. Naidu said, “He was basically challenging Morrison’s credibility, he was challenging Morrison’s legitimacy as a leader, and of course challenging the fact that Morrison may have been the kind of instigator, of, basically accusing him of lying around this whole process, and not necessarily being upfront with Paris around what Australia was doing.” There’s a perception that the leak may have come from the office of the Prime Minister. Naidu, however, says that that was speculative. Nevertheless, it indicated just how aggrieved France was about the submarine deal because it was a deal that was almost guaranteed as bilateral. An implication of this is that Europe was also turning very lukewarm toward Australia. There’s this question about whether trade could continue with the EU. Naidu said, “Twice now, it seems the trade deal with the EU has been put on hold. There’s a bit of a pullback by the EU.” She said that this was becoming quite an important discussion point for France and Australia in the Asia Pacific. Australia’s action had implications for the region as a whole, and was known to have been intended to counter China in the region. Naidu said, “this is really the new low in the engagement”.
Meanwhile, United States President, Joe Biden, is using his trip abroad to confront China on climate change and more. Naidu said that Biden had given his closing speech on Tuesday night, where he spoke about the renewal of the US in global terms. He spoke about the US becoming world leader. He used the opportunity for him to demonstrate that the US was returning to the fold of geopolitics. He also delivered a swipe at China’s president, Xi Jinping, for not attending global events. The last two weeks have seen two major events happening globally – the G20, and of course the COP26. Biden was implying President Xi Jinping had not taken the opportunity seriously, and that he was losing his ability to influence the global stage by staying away from these mega world events. Naidu added, “And I think this is because Xi Jinping hasn’t travelled for the longest time ever because of the Coronavirus. And he’s been using this opportunity to stay at home.” It remains to be seen whether Xi Jinping will travel for the China Africa forum that’s expected to take place at the end of November. The Chinese have reacted by pointing out that it had not been them who had pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Naidu said that this had also been an opportunity for Biden to re-establish the US in terms of reconnecting with the world leaders. She projected that climate change politics would become the new geopolitical rivalry and competition.
Naidu said that there seems to be a general consensus on the fact that because “China is part of the IP, etc, production, they’re also becoming much more circumspect”. In her opinion, the posturing by Biden around China, the pushing back and trying to take China on because of its global presence, and its branding, and its PR is quite an interesting trajectory and relationship, in contrast with former President Donald Trump, who was trying to challenge China’s global leadership. She said that Biden was using China’s own weaknesses in certain areas to hit back.
Lastly, New Zealand has ratified a major Asia Pacific trade deal, which, according to Naidu, was the biggest trade deal in the world. It was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Trade Deal, which involved China, Japan, South Korea, and ten other Southeast Asian countries. The deal was in the making with eight years of negotiations. Countries have been ratifying it in the last several months. The trade deal should be effective by January 2022. The deal constituted 80% of global trade, and gross domestic products, and 30% in terms of the global population. It was a major deal for New Zealand to be part of, because it would enable the country to tap into economic markets, open up benefits for their companies and for their exporters. The deal is designed to eliminate tariffs on about ninety one percent of goods, as well as standardized rules on investment and intellectual property. Naidu said, “I think what’s important about this deal is that it comes at a time where in the Asia Pacific itself, there’s all these tensions around security, around the militarization of the Indo Pacific. This whole tension with the US, China, as well as the tension between Paris and Australia, so I think it’s going to be an important dynamic in terms of also deciding how the signatories to the RCEP will also determine a common set of rules, dispute mechanisms, as well as deciding about the rules based trade system in terms of this economic partnership.