• Hannah Phillips

This Week in Politics: Malcolm Turnbull’s Incursion into Europe

When he leaves the Prime Ministership, Malcolm Turnbull will have at least one abiding legacy: strong relations with continental Europe.

Previous Prime Ministers have always been wary of the Europeans because of the European Commission’s intransigent position on agricultural trade.

During the Fraser years Australia took international legal action against Europe for dumping sugar into our third country markets, and won.

When multilateral trade negotiations were held in the time of the Hawke government, we established the Cairns Group of countries to fight European Union trade proposals.

Since that time trade issues have receded in importance and Malcolm Turnbull has consolidated relations with the award of major defence contracts to France, Germany, Spain and possibly Italy.

This week the Prime Minister will visit Berlin, Brussels and Villers-Bretonneux where he will hold talks on trade, security and open the Sir John Monash memorial.

Mr Turnbull believes that Brexit provides an opportunity to complete a free trade agreement with the EU and he will lobby Angela Merkel, as leader of the strongest economy in Europe, to accelerate the process.

In Brussels he will hold discussions with NATO officials about security issues involving Russia in Syria and China in the Asia Pacific.

Following the announcement on Sunday that North Korea has suspended all nuclear tests pending negotiations with South Korea and discussions with Donald Trump, it is likely that the denuclearisation of North Korea will be a hot topic.

The discussions in Germany will also have a security element.

Malcolm Turnbull and Angela Merkel have established an Australia Germany Advisory Group which is chaired at ministerial level.

Australia is lucky to have a fluent German speaking minister in Mathias Cormann who was a great success when he chaired the meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron will try and retrieve this disadvantage when he visits Australia next week.

If Malcolm Turnbull can persuade him to strongly support the free trade agreement with Europe, this will be a major breakthrough:

France is usually the hardest European country to extract concessions from.

John McDonnell

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