BNN Bloomberg | 1 June 2023
Australia trade minister heads to Europe aiming to seal EU-FTA
by Ben Westcott, Bloomberg News
(Bloomberg) — Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell will head to Brussels this weekend for the final rounds of negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union, which both sides signaled may be completed by the end of the European summer.
The visit would include a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis on Monday, Farrell said in Canberra on Thursday, as part of a speech in which he pushed for greater trade diversification for the Australian economy.
Both the EU and Australia are pushing to seal the agreement within months, which would remove restrictions on a wide range of agricultural produce as well as boost supply chains of Australia’s critical minerals to European nations.
One of the major sticking points in the negotiations, however, has been EU’s demand for geographical indication protection to hundreds of products that could affect the branding of Australia’s exports such as wine and cheese. To this, Farrell said Australian prosecco producers shouldn’t look to begin relabeling their products “just yet.”
“These people who produce those products, it’s not just an economic issue, this is a way in which they’ve maintained links with their mother country,” Farrell said. “So for them it’s not just an economic issue, it’s an emotional issue.”
Farrell said he didn’t want to just “sign a deal for the sake of it” and would be willing to prolong negotiations if he deemed the agreement wasn’t fair.
During his speech, the trade minister encouraged businesses to expand export portfolios and warned against “over reliance on any single trading partner.” Australian agricultural producers struggled to find new export markets in 2020 after the country’s largest trading partner China suddenly imposed a range of trade sanctions on Australian produce.
“Across the private sector, any business that relied on a single client, would be destined for failure, so too for global trading economies,” Farrell said.