Negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the European Union are expected to kick off in coming weeks.
The Council of the European Union agreed overnight to open negotiations.
A joint statement from Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the government will seek an agreement to secure better access for Australian food and agriculture products, to lock in better access for Australian services exporters and to expand two-way investment flows.
The EU is Australia’s second largest trading partner. The EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment in 2017.
“This has big potential for our farmers and will open up lucrative premium markets in our fourth largest export destination driving increased exports, economic growth and jobs in rural and regional Australia,” said Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
“A high-quality trade deal with the EU could eliminate many tariffs and create new and better export opportunities.
“The EU is our fourth largest export destination for agriculture, fisheries and forestry worth $3.8 billion in 2016-17. It is also our largest source of agriculture, fisheries and forestry imports, valued at $5.6b.
EU exports 2016-17
- Wine $566 million
- Wool $333m
- Beef and veal $229m
- Nuts $226m
“All (these commodities) are subject to various quotas and tariffs which means there is huge potential for growth as part of the future FTA,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The new agricultural counsellor in the EU announced as part of this year’s Budget will be vital to securing improved market access for our farmers as part of the future deal so the timing couldn’t be better.”
National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson, who led a farm sector trade mission to the EU in January, said the EU is a premium market for Australian agriculture.
“Our high quality agricultural products are ideally suited to cater for the European consumer, a consumer who is particularly concerned about food and fibre provenance, food safety, animal health and environmental sustainability,” Ms Simson said.
“In 2016-2017 Australia exported about $3.8 billion worth of produce to the EU, while we imported agricultural goods worth more than $4.7 billion.
“This is a significant deviation from Australia’s usual agricultural trade pattern, with Australia being a net food exporter with all other major markets. We have an opportunity now to increase our exports to the EU."