The European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström has kicked off introductory negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and Australia in Canberra, along with the Australian Commerce Minister Steven Ciobo and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
“There is a lot of global momentum for trade liberalisation,” Malmström said while adding the move aims to promote trade in goods and services between the EU and Australia. “I look forward to adding Australia to our ever-expanding circle of like-minded trading partners, In difficult times, it is encouraging to see Australia share our commitment to a positive trade agenda. Our negotiations will be an agreement that offers clear benefits for both the EU and Australia,” said Malmström.
She warned that the chapter on agriculture and designations of origin would be the “most difficult” of the trade negotiations between Brussels and Canberra as Australian companies regularly identify their products with European references. Specific European products enjoy maximum legal name protection within the bloc as Geographic Indication products, such as the Greek feta, Parmesan cheese, and Prosciutto ham. Malmström addressed the issue by saying, “We are doing our best to reach an agreement that can be ratified by all countries.”
Turnbull said Australia remained committed to a Pacific Rim trade deal even after US President Donald J. Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in March.
“We are committed to free trade and open markets and we practice what we preach,” Turnbull said, while Malmström added that the two parties share similar views on how world trade should work. “We defend rule-based and fair open trade. This is what we’re going to cement in our free trade agreement,” she said. On behalf of Australia, the country is expected to negotiate a new and separate post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK.
Australia has a population of 25 million people and a GDP of €1.2 trillion. It is one of the fastest growing developed economies and recently completed negotiations with ten other countries from the region for theTrans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Europe is already Australia’s most important trading partner, with the bilateral trade amounted to €48 billion in 2017. This mainly concerns transport equipment, machines, products from the chemical industry, food and services.
The last sector was responsible for a share of €28 billion in 2017.
Malmström will continue to New Zealand later in the month as the bloc plans to start talks with Wellington on a bilateral free trade agreement.