Australia and the European Union have failed to cement the details of a free trade agreement (FTA), citing disagreements over export quotas of items like wine and beef.
Discussions on the FTA, which began in 2018, could not be concluded due to “key outstanding issues”, the EU said today (12 July).
In what was at least the eleventh round of discussions, the two parties reportedly disagreed on quotas of Australian wine, dairy, beef, lamb and sugar that should be allowed to be traded in the EU.
Australia’s trade minister Don Farrell reportedly told journalists in Brussels both sides would seek to meet again in August.
According to news agency Reuters, Farrell said: “As we’ve said all along, Australia needs meaningful agricultural access to European markets.”
It comes days after the EU signed an FTA with Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand.
The EU-New Zealand deal will see tariffs axed on exports including wine, spirits, pig meat and chocolate. The details also included extensive protection of geographical indications of food and beverages from both parties.
The proposed deal with Canberra also seeks to protect “distinctive regional EU food and drink products from imitations in Australia”. In March Australian producers criticised the EU’s “cynical protectionism” of the name Prosecco.
In a brief statement from the EU’s delegation to Australia today, it said: “We regret it was not possible to conclude our talks with Australia this week. We made progress but more work is required to address key outstanding issues. Our respective teams will continue to work on bridging remaining gaps.
“This FTA between two like-minded partners is important and will unlock many opportunities for our businesses and farmers. We note there were several issues on which the Australian side required further internal consultations.
“The EU side has made every effort to arrive at a balanced agreement that meets our mutual strategic interests, while also protecting the interests of our stakeholders.
“We rely on our Australian partners to work with us to get this over the line soon. Our door remains open.”
The EU is Australia’s third largest two-way trading partner – after China and Japan – and second-largest source of foreign investment. Last year, Australia also signed an FTA with the UK.
A deal could see trade in goods between Australia and the EU increase by up to 33% and services trade by up to 8%, the EU estimates, adding up to €3.9bn ($4.3bn) to the EU’s GDP by 2030.
The EU’s largest trading partners for goods are China, the US and the UK. It has also opened FTA negotiations with Indonesia, Tunisia and the Philippines.