Australia snubs EU terms for free trade deal

Australia has rejected European Union proposals for a free trade agreement, and a deal is now unlikely to be reached for several years, Australian government ministers said on Monday.

Australia snubs EU terms for free trade deal

Canberra -- Australian ministers announced Monday that Australia has rejected the European Union's proposals for a trade deal. A deal will not be concluded for several more years.

The largest farm industry group in Australia thanked the government after refusing to "throw Aussie Farmers under the bus" by signing a contract that would have allowed too few of their products into Europe.

Both sides have been in negotiations since 2018. Australia is eager to increase agricultural exports through the removal of EU tariffs and expansion of quotas. Europe wants to gain greater access to Australia’s vital minerals industry.

After a weekend meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) Trade Ministers in Osaka, Japan, Australian Trade Minster Don Farrell stated that there had been no progress.

Farrell stated in a press release that he came to Osaka to finalize the free trade agreement.

He said, 'Unfortunately, we haven't been able make any progress'. Negotiations will continue and I hope that we can sign a deal one day that will benefit both Australia and Europe.

Australia's Agriculture Minister Murray Watt stated that the EU, one of the largest markets in the world, had only made slight changes to the proposal they put forward three months ago.

He told ABC Radio that he was unable to convince himself and his colleagues that the EU's offer on beef, dairy products, sugar, or sheep would be in Australia's best interests.

EU Trade Chief Valdis Dombrovskis stated that the bloc had "presented an agricultural market access offer commercially meaningful to Australia while keeping in mind the interests of the European agriculture sector."

Watt, Australia's Watt, said that due to the upcoming EU elections it will be some time until the Australian government and EU leaders are able negotiate a deal.

Australian farm groups urged the government to avoid signing a "dud deal" that would have put their members in a worse position than competitors from New Zealand, Canada, and South America who had greater access to EU market.

Last year, the EU and New Zealand signed a deal that reduced tariffs on EU exports, including clothing, chemicals, and cars. It also allowed for more New Zealand beef and lamb, butter, and cheese to enter the EU.

David Jochinke, President of the National Farmers' Federation, said that it was disappointing that the Europeans were not willing to offer something commercially significant.