Australia open to resuming stalled EU trade talks

Negotiations for a free trade deal with the European Union could resume within months after Australia’s talks with the bloc hit a stalemate.

Discussions for an agreement with the EU failed to make a breakthrough on the sticking point of greater market access for Australia’s agricultural products.

The European parliament will hold elections in June, resulting in talks being put on ice, as both governments consider it unlikely an agreement could be reached when domestic issues are front and centre.

Trade Minister Don Farrell is in Abu Dhabi for the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial conference and has met twice with his EU counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis for informal discussions on the sidelines.

He said the government hadn’t “written off” negotiations with the EU and left the door open to further discussions.

“We’ve made it clear that negotiations have stalled but they’re not broken up,” he told AAP.

“The earliest we’re going to see a resumption of discussions is in August of this year.”

Senator Farrell said in a meeting with Mr Dombrovskis, the pair discussed the possibility of holding new rounds of negotiations.

He also met with France’s new trade minister.

Following stalled talks with the EU, the government has pursued a free trade deal with the United Arab Emirates.

Two-way goods and services trade with the UAE were valued at $9.26 billion last year.

Senator Farrell said he was optimistic talks with the Middle Eastern nation would go “smoothly”.

The government is seeking greater market access for ag products and investment from the UAE’s sovereign wealth funds into the minerals sector.

Senator Farrell said his UAE counterpart Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi was so optimistic about an agreement being struck, he was planning to bring forward a visit to Australia following a “very positive meeting”.

Australia is pushing for progress to be made on fixing the WTO’s dispute settlement system so that the rights and obligations of members can be enforced.

The trade minister is advocating for reform to improve the international organisation’s ability to respond to changes in global trade.

In an address, he reaffirmed the government’s commitment to an “open, rules-based global trading system”.

It is through the WTO, Australia was able to bring disputes against Beijing over sanctions imposed on the nation’s products.

China is on track to finalise its review of bans on Australian wine worth $1 billon by the end of March, after Canberra agreed to suspend a dispute it lodged.

Beijing slapped sanctions worth $20 billion on Australian products during the height of diplomatic tensions in 2020.

Sanctions worth $2 billion remain on wine, rock lobster and some abattoirs.


Tess Ikonomou
(Australian Associated Press)


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