Europe wants Australia’s help to develop rival China’s Belt and Road

Although it does not mention China by name, the strategy is designed to achieve two main goals: to strengthen the security of supply chains and to counter Chinese finance and influence.

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Senior EU officials Josep Borrell and Jutta Urpilainen tell The Sydney Morning Herald and Age that relations between the EU and Australia are “in good health” and that Global Gateway will bring Brussels and Canberra closer together.

They say that Europe’s calling card to other countries will be neither “white elephants” nor “debt traps”, with its initiative to focus instead on projects “sustainable and meeting the needs of local populations” .

In a world of tight supply lines amid mounting tensions between China and the United States, Borrell and Urpilainen warn that data flows, energy supply, rare earths, vaccines and semi -conductors are all “instruments of power in today’s world”.

“That’s why we need to make sure that global connectivity and access to these flows are based on international rules and standards,” they say.

“While the flow of goods may be ideologically neutral, the rules that govern them are closely tied to political values.

“Europe wants to reduce excessive dependency and be more autonomous in areas such as the production of computer chips. Our autonomy is reinforced if all our partners have alternatives to make their investment decisions.

Borrell and Urpilainen say Global Gateway has already identified a number of flagship initiatives, including the extension of the BELLA submarine cable between Europe and Latin America and more than $ 1.5 billion for Africa. of the North to support renewable energy projects.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said Australia was well positioned to be a “reliable and competitive supplier” of essential minerals to the EU, including battery minerals and rare earths.

“Australia and the EU share common values ​​and an unwavering commitment to the rules-based global order. The EU’s Global Gateway initiative is welcome and will help identify projects we could collaborate on in the Indo-Pacific, ”he said.

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But there are clearly factors that work against Europe, including the fact that China does not see the EU as a single entity, but rather as a series of relations that can be divided (witness the accession of the ‘Italy at the BRI).

Second, Europe is physically distant from the Indo-Pacific, which means that many countries have not deepened their relations with the EU, despite it accounting for 14% of world merchandise trade.

Australia’s long-awaited free trade agreement with the EU, which has been in the works since 2018, could be a step in addressing this.

Tehan says he looks forward to the resumption of the 12th round of negotiations in February.

He said a free trade agreement “would create opportunities to develop our two-way investment partnership and strengthen the EU’s economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific, where the world’s economic weight lies.”

Mary I. Bruner