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Cheesed off: Australia-EU free-trade talks collapse

No deal in Australia, EU free trade talks

A free-trade deal between Australia and the European Union may be off the table for at least two years, after the latest round of negotiations to close off the agreement collapsed.

Trade Minister Don Farrell held talks with European counterparts at the sidelines of the G7 Trade Ministers’ meeting in Osaka, but progress for the free-trade deal once again stalled.

Negotiations for a trade deal have been long drawn out, with a key sticking point the use of geographical indicators, which would stop Australian producers being able to use terms such as feta and prosecco.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said it was unlikely a trade deal could be negotiated before the end of the current term of federal parliament, which is due to expire in 2025.

“It may be that we can resume negotiations, but I think that will be some time away,” Watt told ABC Radio on Monday.

“The EU elections will be next year, I can’t see them being in a position to resume negotiations before that … there’s a reason that no government has been able to reach an agreement with the EU up until now.”

Watt said the Europeans did not put a better deal on the table than the one offered up during previous stalled rounds of negotiations.

The federal government has said previously it would be willing to walk away from negotiations if it was not in the national interest for Australian producers.

“We would only enter a free-trade agreement with the EU if it was in Australia’s national interest, and in particular, if it offered new, commercially meaningful access to the European market for Australian agriculture, and that hasn’t happened,” he said.

“We’ve made a number of concessions throughout the process, and again, we’re willing to do that.”

Watt said he was disappointed by the breakdown in negotiations.

“The EU takes a very strong stand, it’s a very protectionist market when it comes to agriculture, and they weren’t prepared to budge enough for it to be in our interests,” he said.

Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Hogan said it was unfortunate the trade deal had collapsed.

“The offer for agriculture, particularly beef, sheep and sugar, was not good enough,” Hogan said.

“The EU offer on geographical indicators would have also been too restrictive, particularly for products like parmesan, feta and prosecco.”

– AAP

Topics: Trade
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