Euro vision for trade deal remains cautious
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.”