Australia and EU fail to make progress in FTA negotiations

The Australian government has walked away from a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU) after failing to make progress in negotiations.

Don Farrell, Australia’s minister for trade and tourism, on Sunday said that, following talks on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) trade minister meeting in Osaka, Japan, no deal has been reached on the FTA.

Farrell said in a statement that he travelled to Osaka intending to finalize a deal with the EU that would benefit Australian businesses, producers, workers and consumers.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to make progress. Negotiations will continue, and I am hopeful that one day we will sign a deal that will benefit Australians and our European friends,” local media quoted him as saying.

Before departing for Japan, Farrell described the negotiations as the “end game” for the FTA ahead of EU elections in 2024, which he said could put talks on hold for several years.

Australia’s decision to walk away from negotiations, which began in 2018, comes after Farrell in July rejected the EU’s proposed deal due to a disagreement over the liberalization of agricultural trade and EU import quotas for Australian beef, sheep meat, dairy products and sugar.

Earlier in October, the peak body representing Australia’s agriculture industry, the National Farmers’ Federation, urged the government not to sign a deal with the EU unless major improvements were negotiated for farmers, saying the EU proposal would put them at a disadvantage for “the next half-century.”

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the EU is Australia’s third-largest two-way trading partner and second-largest source of foreign investment.

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