Trudy Witbreuk (DFAT Deputy Lead Negotiator for the Australia-EU FTA) and Rhona Piggott (Director NSW State Office,Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
Mark Stariha of the Slovenian Australian Chamber of Commerce attended the roundtable discussion organised by the European Australian Business Chamber at the Department of Foreign Affairs Sydney.
The purpose of the discussion was to provide an update to member chambers of the EABC on the progress of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU)
Trudy reported that there has been one completed discussion with EU, and the 2nd discussion was set to occur in October
The progress has been slow, but they are hoping to get to the Scoping Phase by the end of this year, then move immediately to the Impact Assessment.
The Brexit issue does not cause any delay in the FTA progress, however any separate FTA discussions with Britain can only commence after it is clear the EU FTA will be completed and Britain has exited the EU.
Although DFAT is currently conducting negotiations, they are still open to submissions, no end date, but best any submission is in sooner rather than later.
Questions were asked what happens to existing trade agreements between individual EU countries and Australia U. The response was that they will still stand, yet this raises questions over which would have priority. Anti dumping regulations would continue be separate from the FTA.
Agriculture and subsidies were raised as a real issue. EU agriculture exports to Australia far exceed EU imports from Australia. There is a continuing issue about EU countries and the EU subsidising their agricultural industries.
Barriers to investment were raised. The issue is not that it doesn’t happen, but that the process is expensive and time consuming.
Of interest is that Europe is the only main global hub which Australia doesn’t have an FTA with.
Discussion were raised on whether EU countries might work through the new EU/AU FTA to build opportunities within Asia where Australian businesses have good experience.
Trudy will also be completing roundtable discussion in Melbourne where Robert Walters will participate and deliver information he has prepared.
By Mark Stariha