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Australia- EU Fail to Reach Free Trade Deal Over Agriculture

Financial Times writers Nic Fildes and Andy Bounds reported today that, “Talks over a free trade agreement between Australia and the EU have foundered after the sides failed to reach a deal over the weekend, scuppering five years of negotiations.”

Fildes and Bounds pointed out that, “Australia has said it is unhappy about EU demands to restrict the labelling of Australian feta cheese and prosecco, which are protected categories in the bloc, and has also complained that the bloc has not been prepared to open its market to tariff-free beef and sheep imports.”

The FT article explained that, “Australia walked away from a proposed deal in July, arguing that it did not open up trade enough for the country’s agricultural products. Australian farmers have pressured [Don Farrell, Australia’s trade minister] in recent weeks not to sign what the former president of the National Farmers’ Federation Fiona Simson called a ‘dud deal‘ that could disadvantage the sector for decades to come.

“David Uren, a senior fellow at the ASPI think-tank, said the failure of talks was an indication of how hard it was to secure free trade agreements as countries around the world become increasingly protectionist.

“‘It augurs poorly,’ he said, adding that the breakdown ‘suggests we have moved into a world where large industrialised powers are finding it harder to pursue free trade agreements in their constituencies.'”

Reuters News reported today that, “Australia has rejected European Union proposals for a free trade agreement, and a deal is now unlikely to be reached for several years, Australian government ministers said on Monday.

The largest farm industry group thanked the government for refusing to ‘throw Aussie farmers under a bus’ by signing a deal it said would not have let enough of their products into the EU.

And yesterday, Bloomberg News writers James Mayger, Ben Westcott, and Jorge Valero reported that, “The two sides have been working on a free trade agreement for more than five years and while there was broad consensus across most areas, a few remaining agricultural issues were threatening to derail the entire compact. Australia was pushing for greater access to the European market for its beef, mutton and sugar, while Brussels wants an end to the use of certain geographic locators on products such as Prosecco and feta.”

Meanwhile, Financial Times writer Henry Foy reported today that, “The EU is looking into the possibility of using shipments of grain or fertiliser from Ukraine as part of a wider deal on migration and economic support for Egypt, writes Laura Dubois.”

Foy indicated that, “Details of the proposed agreement are secret, but two EU officials told the Financial Times that it could include provisions for food imports, a major economic risk factor for Cairo and its 110mn people even before the outbreak of conflict on its north-eastern border.

“One particular avenue the EU is exploring concerns using the corridors established for exports from Ukraine to funnel agricultural products to Egypt, EU council president Charles Michel told journalists, specifically mentioning fertiliser.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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