Business & Economy

Australia could pull out of FTA negotiations with EU: minister

Sydney, Australia, June 8 (EFE).- Australia could withdraw from free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union (EU) over issues surrounding protected designations of origin products such as feta and prosecco, Australia’s Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said Thursday.

“If it’s not in our national interest to do the deal, then we won’t do it,” Watt said in an interview with the public broadcaster ABC, and insisted that his country is “not going to do a deal just for the sake of doing a deal.”

The agreement has “got to be in Australia’s interests as well as being in the EU’s interests,” he said, according to an official interview transcript posted to his website.

Australia and the EU began negotiating an FTA in 2018 and this week held the 16th round of talks in Brussels, which Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell attended.

However, the parties remained unable to resolve disputes over the entry of Australian agricultural products into the European market.

The main issue with the Europeans is that Australia wants, for example, to continue calling a white wine and a type of white cheese produced in the Oceanian country “prosecco” and “feta,” despite the fact that these are protected designations of origin. An example of this is champagne, which can only be labeled as such if it comes specifically from the region of France of the same name.

“We need the EU to understand our position when it comes to those geographic indicators,” Watts said.

He added that this is not just “an emotional issue” just for European growers but for Australians as well, as many of them are immigrants and their descendants who arrived in Australia after World War II and continued to make and grow produce from their home countries.

“We, of course, have very high-quality prosecco, feta, parmesan and other products as well. And we want to make sure that the importance from an economic and emotional perspective for our producers is recognized by the EU too,” he said.

Watt also said that another of the Australian objectives is to expand exports of other products, such as beef, sheep, sugar, grains, wines, horticulture and agricultural products to a very restrictive European market with strong protection measures.

On the other hand, he said that the EU is interested in “critical minerals” that are mined in Australia and used in high-tech industries such as car manufacturing.

“There are US car makers right now who have been able to obtain preferential access to our critical minerals. And if the EU want the ability to do that for their car makers and other products, then we hope that they can understand our position on other things,” Watt said.

Bilateral trade in goods and services between Australia and the EU, its second trading partner, reached 48 billion and 27 billion euros in 2017, respectively, according to official data.

Australia, which has China as its main trading partner, intensified the diversification of its trade to countries such as India and blocs like the EU as a result of the problems caused by the export bans imposed by the Asian giant in 2020. EFE


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