US, UK, Australia in "landmark" defence deal

The fast-growing importance of the Indo-Pacific region to the governments in both London and Washington have been demonstrated by the "landmark" defence partnership announced by the UK, Australia and US.

A nuclear submarine on the surface at dusk
Initially, the agreement will see the nations share in the construction of a multibillion-pound fleet of nuclear-powered - but not nuclear armed - submarines for the Australian navy.

Peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region

Going forward, London, Canberra and Washington will also collaborate in cyber, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence as well as other underwater capabilities.In a joint statement, President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Premier Scott Morrison said, "The endeavour we launch today will help sustain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region."For more than 70 years, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the US, have worked together, along with other important allies and partners, to protect our shared values and promote security and prosperity. Today, with the formation of AUKUS, we recommit ourselves to this vision."China was not mentioned in the statement but most observers saw the pact as the latest move by the allies to counter Beijing's growing economic influence and military muscle in the region. Indeed, the Chinese Embassy in Washington described the AUKUS announcement as illustrating the need for the three nations to "shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice".

Connection to the UK's desired Asia-Pacific trade deals

However, in London at least, the unexpected defence deal was just the latest example of Mr Johnson's intensive efforts to increase the UK's involvement and influence in Asia-Pacific, not least as far as post-Brexit trade is concerned.Britain is already in the final throes of reaching a trade deal with Australia and New Zealand, is negotiating extensive agreements with India and Singapore, and has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) - an 11-nation trade agreement among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss: "This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie"

Liz Truss, the former trade minister who was this week promoted to foreign secretary, says, "This part of the world is where Britain’s greatest opportunities lie. We left the EU with the promise of deepening links with old allies and fast-growing consumer markets beyond Europe. It is a glittering post-Brexit prize that I want us to seize."

"Countering the Chinese Communist Party's aggressive moves in the Indo-Pacific"

According to analysts, the new AUKUS alliance represents the most significant security arrangements between the three nations since World War Two."It is a 'big deal' because this really shows that all three nations are drawing a line in the sand to start and counter the Chinese Communist Party's aggressive moves in the Indo-Pacific," Guy Boekenstein, senior director of Defence and National Security at Australia's Northern Territory government told the BBC."It also publicly demonstrates our combined stance on this and commitment to a stable and secure Indo-Pacific region - one that for the past 70 years has led to the prosperity of all in the region, including China's economic growth."

New nuclear subs - faster and harder to detect

The nuclear submarines will be much faster, harder to detect and can stay submerged much longer than conventional, diesel-powered submarines. The US will share with Australia technology that has previously only been shared with the UK.The vessels will be built in Adelaide and will involve the US and UK providing technological consultation during their production.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted or read David Sapsted's article about UK trade deals in the latest issue of our magazine. 

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