Recent talks between Australia and the European Union (EU) to work towards the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a major step forward to unlocking new trade and investment opportunities in Europe, says Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
In a joint statement Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker agreed to commence work aimed at launching negotiations.
An FTA “will support sustainable growth and investment, open up new commercial opportunities and promote innovation and employment in Australia and the EU.”
“This is a significant step towards expanding our trade, investment and economic links with the EU,” Mr Robb said. “Having concluded landmark trade deals with Korea, Japan and China, along with negotiations for the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the EU is certainly the next frontier when it comes to future agreements.”
Australia and the EU will now undertake respective domestic consultative processes and will begin bilateral discussions on the next steps to launch negotiations.
To inform these discussions, Mr Robb said the government is inviting input from interested individuals and groups.
“We welcome submissions from stakeholders, including the business community, the non-government sector and the general community, on the potential opportunities and impacts from a future FTA with the EU,” Mr Robb said.
Second largest trading partner
Of particular interest is information on existing barriers to trade and investment in the EU and the commercial significance of these issues.
The EU bloc represents Australia’s second largest trading partner with two-way trade exceeding $80 billion – more than 12 per cent of our total trade.
Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox said the formal start to Free Trade Agreement negotiations is a welcome and practical next step to helping Australian businesses remain globally competitive.
“Issues such as behind the border barriers and high tariffs and quotas are currently preventing Australian exporters from expanding into these markets, Mr Willox said.
“These EU-Australia FTA negotiations will be another opportunity to break down those roadblocks to trade.”
Mr Willox said the Australian Government should endeavour to achieve an agreement that is comprehensive, includes advantages for all industries and reduces red tape.
Details on how to lodge a submission are available at: http://dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/aeufta/Pages/aeufta.aspx