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EU and Australia failed to agree on trade deal

At the G7 summit in Osaka on Sunday, EU and Australian trade representatives failed to finalise negotiations on a free trade agreement due to persistent disagreements over agricultural market access.

A European Commission spokesman stated that the Commission regretted “the lack of progress made during talks in Osaka.” Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski attended what was supposed to be the final round of negotiations.

There was optimism that a deal was within reach. The Australian side re-tabled agricultural demands that did not reflect recent negotiations and the progress made between senior officials.

Work on a free trade agreement began in 2018 and was put on hold in 2021 after Australia abandoned France in favour of the US and UK on a submarine deal.

However, in July, when a trade deal seemed very close, Trade Minister Farrell withdrew from talks in Brussels because he was dissatisfied with proposals for access to the European market. Although EU officials expressed surprise at such behaviour, the talks continued at a technical level.

Australia is keen to improve market access for its lamb and beef producers, but the EU is reluctant to grant it because countries such as France and Ireland oppose it. The EU Commission wants an agreement by the end of the year as EU elections in mid-2024 could change staffing levels and priorities.

Ahead of the meeting, Farrell stated that failure to reach an agreement would mean a temporary suspension of talks.

From this point forward, if we haven’t got a deal, the Europeans move into their electoral cycle for elections next year, and I think we will have lost the opportunity for two, perhaps three years to come back and resolve this.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Agriculture Commissioner Wojciechowski claimed on Sunday that “more realistic expectations and a balanced approach” were needed to move forward.

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