Australia – New Zealand trade deal: a golden opportunity for Malta
Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his third State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday. The annual speech by the President of the European Commission to MEPs in Strasbourg was typically wide-ranging.
I was pleased that Mr Juncker spoke about the importance of European values and reinforced his commitment to building a union of equals.
It was also important for maintaining public confidence in the EU that he addressed concerns about immigration and the handling of the refugee crisis.
But for Malta, the big news in this year’s address is that the EU Commission wants to fast-track trade deals with Australia and New Zealand.
I am delighted that this trade deal is now a priority for the Commission, and am encouraged to hear that negotiations could begin in a matter of weeks.
Given our country’s historic ties to Australia and New Zealand, our shared history as former British colonies, our use of the English language and membership of the Commonwealth, this is a very welcome and exciting development.
Malta has much to gain from a free trade agreement with our friends in Australia and New Zealand. If we seize this opportunity, it will mean more jobs, more investment and greater prosperity, as we work to build a sustainable economy for future generations.
Free trade agreements can bring us closer together, and the prospect of fast-track trade deals with Australia and New Zealand are also a basis for forging closer ties to the many Maltese who emigrated to the Southern Hemisphere.
Of course, free trade agreements only work when we safeguard workers’ rights and health regulations. I am therefore pleased that the Commission has been clear that the fast-track model being proposed is focused on only re- ducing EU bureaucracy and streamlining decision-making, and will not come at the expense of more corporate influence and less public scrutiny and accountability. Free trade agreements, when done correctly, are of most benefit to vulnerable people, the working classes and small businesses.
So as we seize this opportunity, it is the responsibility of politicians and social partners to ensure that mistakes made in previous trade deals are not repeated here. Prosperity and social justice are not mutually exclusive: they can live in harmony and co-exist. This is what Malta stands for: prosperity with a purpose.