European Union free trade deal on the agenda as Don Farrell flies out


But even though this will be the 13th round of negotiations, finalising a deal will not be easy. Some countries in the union, including France and Ireland, have issues with relaxing restrictions around agricultural exports, and other countries want to ensure the names of regional foods and drinks are protected.

Farrell acknowledged the geographic indicator debate would be tricky, but Australia will push to use those names.

Trade Minister Don Farrell is travelling to Europe to negotiate the free trade agreement.Credit:Rhett Wyman

“We want to keep using feta, parmesan and prosecco, that’s the position we’ve adopted. We’re not changing our negotiating position,” he said.

“But Europeans just like us are entitled to put issues on the table, and this is a serious genuine negotiation. So we’ll listen to their arguments, and hopefully they’ll listen to ours.

“All of those are difficult issues, but I think there’s a way through.”

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

In Canada’s free trade deal with the European Union, the North American country agreed to use qualifiers for some geographic indicators, so locally made feta may be called “feta-style” cheese, and the use of parmesan instead of Parmigiano was OK.

Farrell noted prosecco was protected under that agreement, but winemakers who had already been making it were allowed to continue using the name.

The Canadians also got a “good deal” to export 50,000 tonnes of beef, Farrell said, but Australia would prefer “total free trade” for agricultural products.

“Good market access is no trade barriers whatsoever,” he said.

The minister also expects the luxury car tax to be a topic raised by the European negotiators. Germany, which is home to major car manufacturers including BMW and Volkswagen, is keen to see the tariff removed.

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The tax was brought in to protect Australia’s now non-existent local car manufacturing industry, but it brought in $1.1 billion in the last financial year.

“It’s a lot of revenue, so at the moment, we have made it clear that we’re not willing to give up that tax,” Farrell said.

Farrell’s trip comes on the heels of confirmation the new Australia-India free trade agreement, expected to save Australian exporters about $2 billion a year, will come into effect on December 29.

The agreement with the UK has also been signed off by parliament and now awaits British confirmation. Farrell will travel to the UK to meet counterparts including Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch to encourage quick sign-off on the deal.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.



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