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Australia wants better EU offer on meat and sugar to clinch trade deal - minister

Reuters | 25 October 2023

Australia wants better EU offer on meat and sugar to clinch trade deal - minister

CANBERRA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - The European Union must offer greater market access for Australian beef, lamb and sugar if it wants Canberra to agree a trade deal, Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell said on Wednesday.

Farrell also said the EU had argued for low quotas for Australia by saying its farm products took market share from EU producers in Britain after an Australia-UK trade deal was reached in 2021.

The two sides have been negotiating since 2018.

Farrell will meet EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis at a meeting of Group of Seven trade ministers in Japan on Oct. 28-29. He has warned that if a deal is not agreed soon, European elections due next year could delay negotiations for years.

Australian farm industry groups have urged Farrell not to sign a deal unless the EU improves its offer.

"We need a better offer from them on sheep meat, on beef and on sugar," Farrell said in an interview with Politics with Michelle Grattan, a podcast from media outlet The Conversation.

"One of their arguments to me is that we were so successful in our UK trade agreement that lots of their market into the United Kingdom has been taken up by Australian beef and sheep meat and sugar," he said.

He also said disagreements over food naming rights had not yet been settled. The EU wants names such as feta or prosecco reserved for products made in Europe, something Australian producers oppose.

However, Farrell told Reuters it was still possible that a deal could be signed this weekend.

Australia wants to use a free trade agreement to boost its farm exports by removing tariffs and expanding quotas, while Europe is likely to gain greater access to Australia’s critical minerals industry.

Neither side has revealed its negotiating positions, but Reuters reported this month that the EU had proposed sugar import quotas so low they are not commercially viable to ship.

Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Mike Harrison

 source: Reuters