The Australian Government’s latest push to finalise a free trade agreement with Europe has stalled for the second time in a month.
However the renewed negotiations have failed to make progress, according to international news outlets, with key differences remaining unresolved, particularly over the degree to which the EU will open its markets to Australian farm products, notably beef.
“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,” a European Commission spokesperson said, according to Reuters.
Other reports said the limits the EU bloc is placing on market access for Australia fell far below what Canberra is prepared to accet.
Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell said officials on both sides would continue negotiations and seek to meet again in August.
“As we’ve said all along, Australia needs meaningful agricultural access to European markets,” he told reporters.
“We will continue constructive discussions with the ultimate aim of reaching an agreement.”
Other reports suggested that EU officials are keen to a deal in order to gain better access to Australia’s vast mineral resources, vital to renewable energy industries and the green transition.
Miriam Garcia Ferrer, European Commission spokeswoman for trade, said it regretted the breakdown, as quoted by the Financial Times.
“We made progress, but more work is required to address key outstanding issues. Our respective teams will continue to work on bridging remaining gaps.”
She said the agreement “between two like-minded partners is important and would unlock many opportunities for our businesses and farmers”.
Australia currently has a guaranteed quota of 3389 tonnes of beef into the EU, which also attracts a 20 percent in-quota tariff, and 5,851t sheepmeat/goatmeat quota. Media reports suggested EU officials have offered to increase their initial beef offer to an annual beef quota of 24,000 tonnes, but that remained far short of what Canberra is prepared to accept.
Mr Farrell told reporters in Brussels that Australia had made it very clear right from the start it won’t simply accept any agreement.
“The agreement, from the Australian point of view, has to achieve meaningful agricultural access to European markets.”