The Australian

Tehan heads overseas to speed up FTAs


‘There is a real need for us to start making more rapid progress’


Dan Tehan will use his first overseas trip as Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister to try to progress free-trade agreements with Britain and the EU “a bit faster”, after setting a goal to finalise the deals by year’s end.

Mr Tehan, who has received his first dose of the AstraZenec­a vaccine, will travel to the UK and Europe next week to also push for reform of the World Trade Organisati­on and promote Australia’s hydrogen industry to potential investors.

While it remained his “hope” the UK and EU trade deals would be ready this year, Mr Tehan wanted to make sure they were in Australia’s national interest and worked for local exporters, who are expected to gain access to more than 500 million consumers under the agreements.

“(This will) ensure the work is done so we have a hope of finalising by the end of the year,” he said.

“What I’ll be looking to do is to see how we can progress them a bit faster than they’re going at the moment. I want to build on that momentum from the 10th round of negotiatio­ns (on the EU FTA) — it was considered to be the best round of negotiatio­ns we’ve had so far.

“When it comes to the UK, we’ve had the fourth round (of negotiatio­ns) but there is a real need for us to start making more rapid progress.”

Agricultur­al market access has emerged as a sticking point for both deals, with British farmers wanting Australian exports such as beef and lamb to meet the same standards as UK products.

“We obviously think we’ve got the best agricultur­al standards globally, plus we think standards are very much in the eye of the beholder and not something(that) should be in a free-trade agreement,” he said.

“With the EU free-trade agreement, we want to make sure we improve on our current access. On per head of population, access we get to the EU market is dwarfed by access EU farmers get to the Australian market and this will be a point I’ll be making.

“For the UK, what we would like to see is all goods and services tariff-free and duty-free. We think this should be a world’s best free-trade agreement, a gold standard free-trade agreement, given the history between the two countries.”

Mr Tehan expected the UK deal “could move the fastest” because of that special relationsh­ip.

He insisted there was still “great interest” in Australia as a country to invest in, despite uncertaint­y over the vaccine rollout after the Morrison government abandoned its timeline of giving all consenting adults their COVID-19 first jab by October.

One investment opportunit­y was in hydrogen, Mr Tehan said, with Germany and other EU countries keen to consider new projects.

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