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Trade Minister Don Farrell declares he could ’walk away’ from lucrative EU trade deal amid tense negotiations

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Sky | 6 June 2023

Trade Minister Don Farrell declares he could ’walk away’ from lucrative EU trade deal amid tense negotiations

by Tyrone Clarke

As trade negotiations in Brussels heat up, Australia and the European Union are still yet to overcome major impasses over naming rights of beloved products and market access.

The Albanese government has undergone significant efforts to diversify its export markets following an almost three-year trade dispute with China, signing fresh deals with the United Kingdom and India.

Trade Minister Don Farrell is currently in Brussels finalising negotiations with the European Union to give Australian producers historic access to the $24 trillion economic market.

But there are still key disagreements between the two sides primarily involving market access to agricultural products and disputes over naming rights.

“There’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge,” Mr Farrell told Sky News Australia’s Kieran Gilbert on Tuesday.

“We’re making progress, we’re reducing the number of issues about which we have a difference of opinion but there’s still a lot of work to do.

“We’re going to have to persist and persevere, we’re going to have to push the issues that we feel strongly about in this agreement.”

Mr Farrell said he hoped a new free trade agreement which was “in the interests of Australia” would be reached in the next month.

However, he said he was steadfast in not relinquishing ground on key sticking points.

“If we don’t get to that situation of course, I’m happy to walk away from this agreement,” he said.

One of the primary disagreements is over what the Europeans label “geographical indications” on specific products.

These indicators typically denote the specific location in which an item is produced such as champagne.

The EU has not budged on demanding Australia remove these geographical indications from certain 166 food products such as feta, brie, Pecorino Romano and balsamic vinegar and 234 spirits, essentially preventing domestic manufacturers from using those names.

The original list of products is understood to number around 400, but the clash centres on the protected items Australia actually produces.

The Trade Minister said he had “made no concessions” in respect to those demands arguing many Australian producers of the disputed products were from a European background.

“What I’ve said to the Europeans over and over again is that for Australians of European background, geographical indicators just aren’t an economic issue, they’re an emotional issue,” Mr Farrell said.

“It’s a way that those Europeans can maintain a link to the mother land, they’re very attached to them and so is the government.”

Negotiations with the European Union begun in June 2018 and it has become the number one priority for the government since it finalised trade agreements with India and the United Kingdom.

Europe represents Australia’s third largest two-way trading partner with the relationship valued at almost $100 billion annually.

While Australia has taken significant issue with the EU over geographical indications, on the European side there are concerns over giving market access to products such as beef and other red meat products.

Australia currently has a trade deficit with Europe of more than $40 billion annually, importing $70 billion worth of goods and services compared to the value of exports which sit at $26 billion.

 source: Sky