Euro vi­sion for trade deal re­mains cau­tious

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS -

THE Euro­pean Union will look to pro­tect its vul­ner­a­ble agri­cul­tural prod­ucts in ne­go­ti­a­tions for a free-trade agree­ment with Aus­tralia.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion last month re­leased its ne­go­ti­at­ing di­rec­tives for the agree­ment, af­ter rec­om­mend­ing the EU for­mally be­gin talks.

It made clear that spe­cific pro­vi­sions “should cover the most sen­si­tive prod­ucts”, po­ten­tially through tar­iff rate quo­tas and longer tran­si­tional pe­ri­ods.

While the di­rec­tive does not spec­ify which prod­ucts, an im­pact study re­leased along­side the EC’s rec­om­men­da­tion in­di­cated beef and sheep­meat, dairy and sugar were of par­tic­u­lar con­cern.

The study ex­plored two op­tions for a com­pre­hen­sive free­trade deal: one ex­clud­ing the EU’s sen­si­tive agri­cul­tural prod­ucts such as rice, ce­real, sugar, fruit and veg­eta­bles, ru­mi­nant meat and dairy; and one with full lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of all prod­ucts.

The study in­di­cated full lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of most prod­ucts was pre­ferred, but with pro­tec­tions for sen­si­tive sec­tors “to mit­i­gate the oth­er­wise im­pact ex­pected”.

It found full lib­er­al­i­sa­tion would see Aus­tralian beef and sheep­meat ex­ports grow by 539 per cent, 124 per cent for sugar, and dairy by 87 per cent.

EU mem­ber states will now have to agree on the EC’s rec­om­men­da­tion be­fore ne­go­ti­a­tions can for­mally be­gin.

Trade Min­is­ter Steven neg­a­tive Ciobo an­tic­i­pated ne­go­ti­a­tions would start by year’s end, and noted the EC’s rec­om­men­da­tion also aimed for “the high­est pos­si­ble de­gree of trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion”.

“This is an ob­jec­tive Aus­tralia is keen to en­sure ap­plies across all sec­tors in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture. We have no rea­son to be­lieve the EU does not share this level of am­bi­tion.”

Mr Ciobo said get­ting new, sta­ble ac­cess for Aus­tralian farm­ers and ex­porters was a pri­or­ity.

Na­tional Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Ma­har said the EC po­si­tion was a worry but the NFF was keen to work with Mr Ciobo.

“We knew the EU was al­ways go­ing to be com­plex.”

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