Talks for a no-cost trade pact between the EU and Australia have fallen apart, as the Albanese administration states that reaching an agreement is improbable during this parliamentary term.
Australian trade minister, Don Farrell, met with EU representatives during the G7 ministerial meeting in Osaka, Japan on Sunday. However, he stated that no progress was made during the talks.
The Australian government stated that it would only make an agreement if it served the country’s best interests. One of their main requests was to ensure increased opportunities for Australian agricultural exporters to market to consumers in the EU.
The EU and Australia both accused each other of being uncooperative. According to the Australian Minister of Agriculture, Murray Watt, the EU did not provide sufficient opportunities for exports of beef, sheep, dairy, and sugar.
Watt expressed disappointment that an agreement could not be made. He stated that Australia was willing to compromise, but noted that the EU had not significantly changed their original proposal from three months prior.
Watt stated on Monday’s episode of the ABC’s Radio National that they have returned with a similar offer, with a few minor adjustments.
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According to Watt, discussions began in 2018 due to the EU’s firm stance and its protectionist policies in the agricultural market.
According to a representative from the EU leadership who spoke to Politico, the European Commission is disappointed by the lack of advancement in discussions during the Osaka meeting.
Our negotiation teams have made significant strides in the past few weeks, especially in the days prior to the Osaka meeting. There was a sense of hope that an agreement was close to being reached.
“Unfortunately, conversations among ministers in Osaka did not make much headway. The Australian delegation brought up agricultural requests that did not align with previous talks and the exchanges between high-ranking officials.”
The representative stated that the European Commission is prepared to continue discussions.
The Australian government has not officially ended negotiations, but officials are doubtful that a deal can be reached before next year’s EU elections.
Watt stated that there is a possibility of resuming negotiations in the future, however, it may take some time.
The upcoming EU elections will take place next year. It does not seem likely that negotiations will resume before then. We have expressed to them our belief that it is unlikely to happen during the current term of the Australian parliament as well.
The Australian agricultural industry had been urging the government to reject the proposal presented, as one prominent organization expressed concerns last week about potential betrayal at the last minute.
The National Farmers’ Federation expressed serious worries last week that Minister Farrell is prepared to sign off in Osaka.
Last week, the president of NFF, Fiona Simson, stated that Australian farmers are in agreement and adamant: if the deal is not beneficial, do not sign it.
The trade spokesperson for the opposition, Kevin Hogan, expressed his disappointment at the breakdown of the negotiations, but he supported the government’s stance.
On Monday, Hogan stated that the proposal for agriculture, specifically for beef, sheep, and sugar, was inadequate.
The European Union’s proposal regarding geographical indicators would have been overly limiting, especially for items such as parmesan, feta, and prosecco.