Door ajar for Australia-Europe trade deal, says France

The door is still open for Australia and Europe to strike a free trade deal despite negotiations breaking down, the French foreign minister says.

Trade Minister Don Farrell walked away from the bloc’s latest offer after it failed to come to the table with an agreement that would provide Australian farmers with more access to European markets.

Any deal has essentially been put on ice for the next year or two as Europe enters its domestic election cycle, the government has flagged.

But negotiations could begin again as soon as next year, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said.

“Our trade ministers will … reprise this negotiation next year if possible,” Senator Wong told a joint press conference with her French counterpart on Monday.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna wants conversations to continue.

Despite thinking it was “a good offer, a generous offer, an ambitious offer”, the European proposal didn’t meet Australia’s needs, she said.

“We might see how we can pursue the conversation if there is any will on your side as well,” Ms Colonna told the National Press Club in Canberra before a ministerial meeting.

But no timelines were attached to negotiations.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis recently cancelled a trip to Brazil in a setback for the bloc’s aim to net a trade agreement with a group of South American nations by the end of this year.

French President Emmanuel Macron opposed the deal because of a lack of environmental targets.

It was untenable to have European farmers making efforts to decarbonise but then being undercut by allowing in products from Brazil that didn’t follow such rules, he said.

Europe’s carbon border adjustment mechanism imposes taxes on emissions-intensive imports such as iron, steel, cement and some chemicals in a bid to lower global emissions.

But the impasse in negotiations between Europe and Australia was mainly related to agriculture, not environmental standards, Ms Colonna said.

She remained firm European standards wouldn’t change as the measures were needed to reach carbon neutrality.

“We cannot imagine that we can reach that objective (by) importing goods that will be produced elsewhere without respecting carbon neutrality,” she said.

Less than one per cent of Australian and New Zealand exports were expected to be covered, according to consultancy firm EY.


Dominic Giannini
(Australian Associated Press)


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