PM seeks swift resolution to tense talks on EU free-trade agreement

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has used the G20 summit in India to lobby hard for an EU trade deal “that is in Australia’s national interest”.

Mr Albanese says he wants to see negotiations on a free-trade agreement with the European Union settled by the end of the year.

The Prime Minister held formal talks on Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India, where the pair discussed steps needed to finalise the trade agreement.

Australia has been locked in tense negotiations over an agreement with the EU, with the federal government insisting what was on the table did not offer enough market access to Australian producers.

If a deal is not reached by the end of the year, it’s unlikely an agreement will be signed off in the near future, due to EU elections taking place.

“We won’t sign up to an agreement for the sake of having an agreement,” Mr Albanese told reporters on Saturday night.

‘Trade is good for both parties’

“We believe that you can get an agreement because trade is good for both parties, that is in Australia’s national interest, and in the interests of the European Union.”

Talks on the deal had been stalled due to an impasse on geographic indicators for products such as feta and prosecco.

Mr Albanese had held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen informally before the G20 started.

The Prime Minister said the talks with the EU had been quite positive.

“We will wait and see … our officials have continued to have discussions, but I would like to see the Australia-EU free-trade agreement settled as soon as possible,” he said.

“It’s quite clear with the timetables that are there that the prospects of that being done are much greater this year than next year.”

The EU was Australia’s second-largest trading partner in 2020, as well as the seventh-largest export destination, fourth-largest services market and second-largest source of foreign investment.

G20 deplores Ukraine war

World leaders have delivered “the strongest messaging yet” in denouncing the invasion of Ukraine, Anthony Albanese says.

In a leaders’ declaration issued on day one of the G20 summit in New Delhi, nations agreed on the Ukraine conflict that all states “must refrain from threats” and that “today’s era must not be war”.

There had been concern before the start of the summit a consensus would not be reached due to Russia being unwilling to condemn its own military action.

The prime minister welcomed the leaders’ declaration and said the G20 had delivered its most striking condemnation of Russia’s invasion.

“The G20 has delivered a strong consensus on Russia’s war on Ukraine, that message is very strong language and is the strongest language yet to be agreed by the international community,” he told reporters on Saturday night.

“A backdrop of this G20 has been the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact it’s having on the global economy, on food security, as well as obviously the devastating impact of of this war on the people of Ukraine.”

However, the declaration made concessions in that “there were different views and assessments of the situation”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend this year’s G20, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov taking his place.

Mr Albanese said the message from leaders repudiating the war was “extraordinarily strong,” rejecting claims the statement was watered down.

‘A very strong statement’

“It makes it very clear about sovereignty, about UN resolutions,” he said.
“It’s a call for the peaceful resolution of conflict. I think it is a very strong statement.”

The leaders’ declaration also called for a tripling of renewable energy technology capacity.

The prime minister also held formal bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, along with informal discussions with US President Joe Biden.

The prime minister will give a second address to the summit on the final day of the leaders’ meeting on Sunday.

—with AAP

Topics: EU, Trade
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