By Kirsty Needham
(Reuters) -Australia signed an in-principle agreement with Germany on Monday to deliver more than 100 Australian-made Boxer armed carriers to the European nation’s military in one its largest defence export deals.
The deal to export the German military technology back to Germany comes as the war in Ukraine has forced European nations to replenish their military equipment.
German defence contractor Rheinmetall began making the combat reconnaissance vehicle in northeastern Queensland state in March, under a contract to supply 211 vehicles to the Australian military, creating 1,000 jobs over a decade.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who witnessed the signing by Australian and German officials in Berlin, said it was “one of the biggest defence sales in Australia’s history and is worth over $1 billion to the Australian economy”.
The deal, when finalised, would boost Australia’s defence industry, he said.
Albanese is in Berlin to discuss defence and trade with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
On Tuesday, he will attend a summit of NATO leaders in Lithuania, to which Australia has been invited as an Indo-Pacific Four partner, along with Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Albanese will address the NATO summit on Wednesday.
A NATO partner since 2014, after contributing to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia has agreed a new three-year partnership programme, Australian officials said.
The partnership focuses on maintaining military interoperability, in addition to capability development, scientific research, and consultation on non-proliferation, emerging and disruptive technologies, space and cyber defence.
The new agreement is built on our “mutual respect for the rules-based international order”, a foreign affairs spokesperson said.
France has opposed a plan for NATO to open a Tokyo liaison office as a move that could irritate China and expose the grouping to accusations of geographical overreach.
Asked by reporters on Monday if NATO had a role in the Indo-Pacific, Albanese said it was “a matter for NATO”.
“NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and Australia is participating at this Summit constructively for the second year in a row,” he said.
The war in Ukraine had “implications for the whole world”, he added.
($1=1.5013 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez)
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