EU, Australia Launch Long-Anticipated Free Trade Agreement Talks
The European Union and Australia have formally started negotiations for a free trade agreement against the backdrop of growing uncertainty over Brexit and the increasing protectionism of the Trump Administration in the U.S.
The EU is already Australia’s second largest trade partner although the latter has been striving for better access to the former’s market for decades.
According to the European Commission, the future free trade agreement might boost the EUR 48 billion-worth EU – Australia trade in goods by a third; the bilateral trade in services is worth nearly EUR 28 billion.
The formal free trade deal talks have been launched in the Australian capital Canberra by EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, the EC has announced.
The Commission notes that the free trade talks with Australia come in the wake of the conclusion of similar talks with Japan in 2017, and with Mexico earlier in 2018, as well as the entering into force of CETA (the EU – Canada trade agreement) in September 2017.
It also points out that Australia is among the fastest growing developed economies, and recalls that it recently negotiated the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) free trade deal with 10 other countries from the Pacific region.
“In challenging times, it is heartening to see that Australia shares our commitment to a positive trade agenda, and to the idea that good trade agreements are a win for both sides,” EU Trade Commissioner Malmström has said.
The EC stresses that the future free trade deal with Australia will ensure a level playing field for EU businesses vis-à-vis companies from countries with which Australia already has similar agreements.
One of Australia’s main goals in the free trade talks with the EU will be to secure better market access for Australian agricultural products such as beef, lamb, cheese, rice, and sugar, Ciobo stated, as cited by Bloomberg.
“This is significant for Australian businesses. We’re opening the door to the world’s largest markets and giving them a competitive advantage. We will now have agreements, or negotiations underway, with all of our top 10 trading partners,” Australia’s Trade Minister has said.
Australia is also eager to get lower EU import tariffs on specific products such as almonds, silicon and automotive parts, and better market access in service sectors such as education, financial and professional services.
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