The ongoing trade discussions between Australia and the European Union (EU) have hit a snag, with Australian officials emphasizing that the EU has “offered too little and asked too much”. Despite the challenges, both parties are keen on advancing the negotiations, hoping to establish a mutual understanding during the upcoming G20 trade summit in India.
Assistant Minister for Trade, Tim Ayres, has set his sights on the meeting in India to steer these discussions back towards a productive direction. Ayres, before leaving Australia, highlighted the need for both sides to move forward. However, he underscored that any free trade agreement would be contingent upon improved access for Australian farmers to the EU markets.
Reflecting on recent discussions held in Brussels, Ayres mentioned, “The proposition from the EU was underwhelming for Australia. It offered minimal benefits and demanded significant concessions.” He took issue with the EU's restrictive import quotas, illustrating the point by noting the limited market access for Australian beef in the EU.
Nevertheless, Ayres believes that a free trade agreement with the EU, a vast market of 450 million consumers predominantly from the middle-income bracket, aligns with Australia's strategic interests. He envisions this agreement as a significant boost for Australian farmers, amplifying their market reach.
German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, shared her insights during a webinar with the Lowy Institute, urging both sides to finalize the agreement. She emphasized the importance of diversifying trade, especially given China’s inconsistent economic relationship. Baerbock applauded Australia’s resilience against economic pressures from China and identified critical minerals as an area where the EU and Australia could bolster their cooperation.
The G20 trade summit will serve as a platform for a wide array of discussions. Apart from EU representatives, Ayres has not ruled out potential dialogues with his Chinese equivalent to enhance Australia’s trade ties with Beijing. During his visit, he also anticipates driving forward the proposition of a comprehensive trade deal with India, albeit without setting a definitive timeline.
On the international stage, Ayres firmly stated that Australia would continue denouncing the unauthorized invasion of Ukraine. Addressing the ramifications of the conflict, he noted the emerging “economic and security shockwaves”, which pose fresh challenges, particularly concerning food security.
The underlying theme of the G20 summit is the global economic landscape and its associated challenges. Ayres sees this as an opportunity to build consensus, especially concerning the reform of the World Trade Organisation. This becomes imperative, given the recent US hesitation to induct members into a significant appeals body.
The Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, will participate in the G20 leaders' summit in New Delhi, with rumors suggesting potential talks with China’s President, Xi Jinping.