Australia has begun negotiations with the European Union on a free-trade agreement.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud yesterday held talks in Canberra about improving trade in food and fibre with EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.
The EU covers a market with 500 million people and worth $17.3 trillion, making it one of Australia’s biggest potential trade deals.
Mr Littleproud said an FTA would create opportunities for agriculture in Australia and the EU.
“The EU is already our fourth largest agricultural export destination and we are confident this future FTA will increase the value of the EU market for our farmers,” he said.
In 2016-17, Australia’s top exports to the EU were canola at $1.9 billion, wine at $566 million, wool at $333 million, beef and veal at $229 million, and nuts at $226 million.
Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said negotiations with Ms Malmström would continue in Brussels next month.
Trade on commodities including beef, sheep meat, sugar, cheese and rice are “significantly constrained” by EU tariffs, he said.
“This is significant for Australian businesses. We’re opening the door to the world’s largest markets and giving them a competitive advantage,” Mr Ciobo said.
“We will now have agreements, or negotiations underway, with all of our top 10 trading partners.”
The negotiations come amid a developing trade war between the US and China.
US President Donald Trump last week slapped duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports and drawing a swift in-kind response from Beijing.
The EU is also embroiled in a difficult negotiation with the UK over Britain’s plans to leave the European bloc.
In addition to reducing specific European tariffs on products including almonds, silicon and automotive parts, Australia wants to lock in access for services exporters in sectors including education, financial and professional services, Mr Ciobo said.
“While countries are building barriers, we are knocking them down to create new opportunities for Australian businesses,” he told Bloomberg.