Negotiations for a “critical” trade deal with the European Union have “stalled” over perceptions Australia isn’t “fair dinkum” on climate change action, and due to a fractured relationship with France, Anthony Albanese says.
The Prime Minister met his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday in Madrid before the NATO Summit, marking the first bilateral visit by an Australian prime minister.
Mr Albanese said the “very warm and productive meeting” lasted for more than a hour, but discussions about a trade relationship “essentially stalled”.
“It was clear that there were two impediments … one was the Australian relationship with France and the breakdown that had occurred in recent times given France’s leadership role in Europe,” he said.
“The second was Australia’s position on climate change, where the perception by Europe and indeed by the world, that Australia was a handbrake on global action.
“Australia just wasn’t seen as being fair dinkum about taking action on climate change.”
Mr Albanese said the perception had hindered Australia’s capacity to enter into economic relationships with European countries.
“The EU trade deal is critical,” he said.
The PM said he hoped to see an “acceleration” in progress over the coming months, with a number of European trade ministers due to visit Canberra for discussions.
Later this week, he will visit Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to repair the relationship, after Australia dumped a $90 billion submarine deal with Naval Group.
When asked if he was concerned the war in Ukraine could worsen the energy crisis in Australia through supply issues for gas and coal, Mr Albanese deflected the question.
Australia has been invited to participate in the NATO Summit alongside New Zealand, Japan and South Korea as part of the “Asia-Pacific Four”.
Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will dominate NATO discussions, the “challenge” of China will also be addressed.
Mr Albanese said the world’s democracies had been united through a “commons sense of purpose” by Russia’s aggression and disregard for international law.
“Those nations that are prepared to stand up for democratic values, for human rights, for respect of the sovereignty of nations, will continue to stand up for those values and those rights,” he said.
“That is something that is a message to all other countries in the world, whether they be here in Europe or in our own region.”
Mr Albanese will hold a one-on-one meeting with South Korea’s President Yoon Seok-youl on Tuesday local time, before he attends the NATO gala dinner with his partner Jodie Haydon, hosted by the Spanish King and Queen.