Australia, EU Restart Trade Talks in Bid to Break FTA Deadlock

(Bloomberg) -- Australia and the European Union will resume talks on a free trade agreement on Thursday after negotiations broke down in July amid disagreements over market access for Australian agricultural exports.

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Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell and EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis will hold talks via teleconference in an attempt to bridge the gap in the two sides’ positions, Farrell’s office said Thursday. The stalemate in talks dashed hopes to have the free trade agreement finalized by the middle of the year.

Trade in goods between the EU and Australia accounted for €56.4 billion ($62.1 billion) last year and talks to strike a free-trade agreement have been ongoing for more than five years. Among the current sticking points are level of access into the European market for Australian exports such as beef, dairy and sugar.

The Australian negotiating team maintained the EU wasn’t offering enough in return for demands including the removal of geographical locators of produce, such as prosecco and brie. At the same time, EU negotiators insisted they were unable to move on import quotas for Australian agricultural products.

“We are prepared to persevere and persist until we get the right result both for Australia and Europe,” Farrell said in Brussels in July.

Farrell has invited Dombrovskis to travel to Australia for face-to-face talks. The EU is hoping the agreement could lead to greater access to Australia’s large reserves of critical minerals such as lithium, which are vital for high-tech manufacturing and the green energy transition.

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