Australia is working to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union where it will have wider access to the continent’s agricultural markets. The member states of the EU have already given their approval for negotiations to commence.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that the EU expressed willingness to entering a free trade agreement during a press conference in Canberra. According to PM Turnbull, the opening of free trade would likewise create better opportunities for more jobs in Australia and Europe.
Some raised concerns that countries may offer resistance to free trade. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron assured French farmers that they would remain protected. PM Turnbull countered by saying Australia imported more agricultural products than the country exported.
PM Turnbull added that it was President Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who actually pushed for free trade negotiations between the EU and Australia.
Australia’s Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, said Australia plans to work out a “high- quality, comprehensive free trade deal with the European Union” as fast as possible. However, negotiations should not sacrifice quality of a good trade deal for speed:
“I’ve always said I won’t sacrifice the quality of a trade deal for speed. A good- quality trade deal with Europe will include enhanced agricultural access for Australian exporters.”
According to Ciobo, Australia had exported an estimated $3.6 Billion worth of agricultural products to Europe. In comparison, Australia imported $4.9 Billion.
Jean- Claude Juncker, European Commission President said he wants to finalize negotiations of a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand by 31 October 2019 which is his last day in office.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom which voted to leave the EU, will not be able to negotiate its own trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand until 30 March 2019.
Ciobo gave assurances that there would be no conflict in Australia’s negotiations with the EU and the UK.
“That’s progressing, these things are happening in parallel. It’s not a case of it being black or white. It’s a case of doing both of these together.”
PM Turnbull has continued his government’s aggressive approach to securing favourable trade agreements. He had recently signed a new agreement with Peru and had revived the Obama- era Trans- Pacific Partnership agreement with at least 11 nations.