Australia tries to save EU trade negotiations

Australia will make an effort to rescue trade talks with the European Union (EU) while simultaneously ramping up concerns that the bloc has “offered too little and asked too much” so far in the negotiations.

Tim Ayres, the assistant minister for trade, will meet with European colleagues this week in India, on the fringes of the G20 trade summit, with the intention of getting the negotiations back on track.

Ayres stated that both parties “ought to get on with it” before leaving Australia on Wednesday. He was speaking before leaving the country. However, he did issue a warning that a free trade agreement would not be feasible unless Australian farmers were granted significantly more access to the market in the EU.

“However, the agreement that was presented to Australia in Brussels approximately six weeks ago asked too much and offered too little in return.”

After the trade minister, Don Farrell, revealed during a speech on Tuesday in Melbourne that the discussions with the EU had been “hard work,” Ayres also complained about tight European import quotas. Farrell’s admission came after Ayres criticized the trade minister for his admission.

According to Ayres, it would take each inhabitant of the European Union sixty years to accumulate enough beef to eat one Australian steak if they were to consume it.

“There is so little access to the market at the moment. My hope is that we can reach an agreement with Australian farmers that improves their access to markets while still being commercially viable.

Ayres stated that it was “absolutely in the interests of Australia” to establish a free trade deal with the EU if those obstacles could be overcome. He described the EU as “a huge market of 450 million, mostly middle-income consumers.” If those difficulties could be overcome, Ayres described the EU as “absolutely in the interests of Australia.”

Annalena Baerbock, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated on Tuesday night in front of an audience in Australia that all parties should now make every effort to finalize the deal.

Baerbock stated that the European Union needs to diversify its trade relationships since China was “not always as predictable, transparent, and reliable as is needed to allow a stable economic relationship.” Baerbock made this statement while speaking at a webinar hosted by the Lowy Institute.

Baerbock stated that Australia has been “a role model” in rebuffing China’s attempts to exert economic pressure on it. She highlighted the importance of crucial minerals as a vital issue for the EU’s continued collaboration with Australia.

“More than ninety percent of the lithium that is mined in Australia is shipped directly to China without undergoing any additional processing, while the European Union imports more than ninety percent of the processed lithium that it requires.” Therefore, the most important question is, “How can we reduce the danger of this detour?”

Following the G20 trade and investment meeting that will take place in Jaipur on Thursday and Friday, a business summit will be conducted in New Delhi over the weekend. The delegation is made up of a number of different Australian organizations, including the Business Council of Australia.

In the midst of continuous efforts to “stabilize” Australia’s relationship with Beijing, Foreign Minister Ayres has maintained that he is open to the option of meeting with his Chinese counterpart in addition to holding discussions with European representatives.

Ayres described the reduction of China’s heavy tariffs on barley as “a very good development,” but he also stated that if such a meeting were to take place, he would “very directly” advocate for the removal of other trade obstacles, particularly those pertaining to wine and seafood.

Ayres stated that he planned to take use of his trip to India in order to keep the momentum going toward a more comprehensive trade agreement with India. It had been suggested that this will be completed by the end of 2023, but Ayres stated that he did not want to commit to a specific date.

Ayres stated that Australia would take advantage of every chance to criticize Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact that he “certainly won’t” be meeting his Russian counterpart on the margins of the G20 summit.

The war had caused “economic and security shockwaves,” including issues to food security, “that we are going to have to keep attending to,” as the phrase puts it.

The summit of the G20 was taking place “in a challenging environment,” which included economic headwinds on a worldwide scale.

Ayres described the situation as “an opportunity to keep building consensus” over the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) need for reform. This matter has been brought to a head as a direct result of the United States’ unwillingness to appoint members to an important appeal panel.

When asked if he was upset with the US attitude, Ayres stated that he and Farrell would “keep encouraging our friends in the United States” and other nations to support a package of change at a major WTO meeting early in the coming year. Farrell also stated that they would “keep encouraging our friends in other countries.”

“I don’t think you make progress by expressing disappointment, I think you make progress by making the case and building consensus.”

The G20 leaders’ summit is scheduled to take place in New Delhi the following month, and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is expected to be there. There is widespread anticipation that this will involve a second meeting between Albanese and Xi Jinping, the president of China.

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