Australia and the European Union have failed to reach a free trade deal ‘more work needs to be done to address key issues’
Australia and the European Union have failed to conclude negotiations on a planned free trade deal, the European Commission has said.
The EC statement followed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s comments that any deal would require Australian farmers to be given more access to produce, particularly beef and lamb, in the bloc.
‘We will continue to make the case for a free trade agreement (FTA) in the interests of both Australia and Europe,’ Mr Albanese said on a visit to Lithuania on Tuesday.
‘But we won’t sign up to the deal just for the sake of it, what we want is a good deal for Australia,’ Mr Albanese said.
Prime Minister Antony Albanese said any EU trade deal would have to give farmers more access to the bloc
An EC representative said on Tuesday, ‘We regret that we were unable to conclude our discussions with Australia this week.
‘We have made progress but more work needs to be done to address key outstanding issues,’ the representative said.
Commerce Minister Don Farrell said officials from both sides would continue talks and try to meet again next month.
“As we have always said, Australia needs meaningful agricultural access to the European market,” he told reporters at an impromptu news conference in a park in central Brussels.
‘I’m optimistic that with some good will, some hard work, some persistence, we’re going to get there,’ Mr Farrell said.
Mr Albanese discussed the idea of an EU free trade agreement (FTA) with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of a NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Wednesday.
Tony Mahar, chief executive of the National Farmers’ Federation, who is based in Brussels, said agriculture was always a final issue to be resolved in trade talks.
‘It’s proven in this case, it’s challenging,’ he told the ABC.
Trade is very important to Australian agriculture.’
Mr Mahar said if the proposal presented by the Europeans was not good enough, the government should walk away before trying to negotiate a deal again later.
“It’s very important not to get it right … we want to make sure we get this right for Australian farmers from day one for decades to come,” he told the ABC.
A sticking point in trade talks is the European Union’s objection to Australian food producers using terms such as feta and prosecco.
Australian negotiators argue that it is reasonable for farmers to use the terms to represent diversity rather than European regions.
Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Hogan said he agreed with the idea of leaving if farmers were not given adequate access to the EU market.
‘We shouldn’t rush into this deal if it’s a bad deal for Australia,’ he told AAP.
Mr Hogan does not want to see the ”grandfathering” of geographical indications where only existing producers can use names such as prosecco and feta.
“The European Union is a big economy, we have a lot of customers there, but we certainly don’t want to do that at any cost,” he said.
‘A deal can be done but we must not blink before the Europeans.’