Talks on a free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia have been postponed by Brussels, in what is seen as further fallout from the formation of a new strategic alliance between Australia, the UK United and United States (AUKUS).
The surprise announcement of the Pacific-Asia alliance last month came with Australia canceling an agreement with France for a fleet of conventional submarines worth 32 billion euros, which greatly irritated Paris. Australia is now aiming to procure nuclear-powered submarines from the United States.
The one-month postponement of the next round of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks – originally scheduled for October 12 – was first made public by the Australian government on Friday morning.
“Adjournment does not mean cancellation. Negotiations are not easy. There are still important differences, such as the access of Australian agricultural products to the EU market, the recognition of the geographical designation of origin by Australia, or the Australian taxation of cars. Bernd Lange, Chairman of the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament (INTA)
Reuters reported that Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said: “I will meet with my European counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis next week to discuss the 12th round of negotiations, which will now take place in November rather than October. According to the news agency, Tehan declined to comment on the role, if any, of the submarine deal in the delay in negotiations.
The European Commission upheld the decision but also made no reference to AUKUS-related issues, stating instead that the negotiations were “focused on substance rather than speed.” A one-month delay will also allow us to better prepare, ”said a spokesperson.
The chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA), German Social Democrat Bernd Lange, also put the delay in the context of the negotiations when he commented in The Parliament Magazine:
“Adjournment does not mean cancellation. Negotiations are not easy. There are still important differences, such as the access of Australian agricultural products to the EU market, the recognition of the geographical designation of origin by Australia, or the Australian taxation of cars.
Lange added that in terms of policies, climate action and workers’ rights were two areas where Canberra and Brussels were not yet aligned, leaving him to conclude that “a delay of one month will not make a difference. significant, because a rapid deadline could not in any case be expected a conclusion ”.
He acknowledged the fallout from UKUS, however, commenting that the move “is a sign that confidence has clearly waned.”
A feeling shared by the French MEP of the Renew Europe group, Marie-Pierre Vedrenne, who told us:
“The postponement of a new round of negotiations between the EU and Australia is proof that reaching a trade deal depends on keeping your word. Confidence is a minimum prerequisite, especially when it comes to an ally.
INTA Vice-President She also stressed that a large number of differences still need to be overcome before an agreement can be reached.
In contrast, Romanian MP Iuliu Winkler, also vice president of INTA in The Parliament magazine, called for continued engagement with Australia and increased dialogue:
“In a complex and interconnected world, bilateral relations are increasingly difficult to manage. Whatever differences may appear in the EU-Australia relationship, the underlying reality of this relationship is that we are natural, like-minded partners. “
“In a complex and interconnected world, bilateral relations are increasingly difficult to manage. Whatever differences may appear in the EU-Australia relationship, the underlying reality of this relationship is that we are natural, like-minded partners ” Iuliu Winkler, Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA)
In his view, the EU and Australia shared common large-scale interests, including in trade and investment. Winkler concluded that “at this time, in the midst of tensions, dialogue is essential. I continue to believe that an EU-Australia FTA is a shared interest of our economies, our businesses and our citizens. ”
The center-right MEP from the PPE Group called for “immediate engagement and effective dialogue (…) to facilitate the resumption of the trade agenda”.
The 12th round of trade negotiations is supposed to deal with a wide range of aspects of trade and investment, including intellectual property rights.
According to the Commission’s DG Trade, the EU is Australia’s third largest trading partner: “Bilateral trade in goods has grown steadily in recent years, reaching almost € 48 billion in 2017. Bilateral trade in services added an additional 27 billion euros ”.
With an FTA in place, trade in goods and services between the two partners could increase by around a third, according to an impact assessment.