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EU ministers give green light to trade talks with Australia and New Zealand

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EU ministers give green light to trade talks with Australia and New Zealand

Cecilia Malmstroem - Photo EU Council

(BRUSSELS) -EU trade ministers authorised the opening of talks for free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand Tuesday, which the Commission says could benefit Europe to the tune of EUR 5 billion.

Trade agreements with both countries would aim primarily at further reducing existing barriers to trade, removing custom duties on goods, and giving better access for services and public procurement in Australia and New Zealand. The sectors likely to benefit the most from the FTAs are motor equipment, machinery, chemicals, processed foods and services.

Ministers adopted negotiating directives for each of the negotiations. The mandates are particularly concerned to protect vulnerable sectors such as agriculture by maximising the benefits of market opening without harming local producers. The mandates do not envisage full liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, which are foreseen as benefiting from specific treatment.

The mandates provide for a comprehensive and modern framework, based on the highest standards of labour, safety, environment, climate and consumer protection.

"We look forward to adding Australia and New Zealand to the EU's ever-growing circle of close trading partners," said the EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem: "Together, we will now negotiate win-win trade deals that create new opportunities for our businesses, as well as safeguard high standards in key areas such as sustainable development."

Ms Malmstroem added that the start of talks sent a strong signal "at a time where many are taking the easy road of protectionism".

The EU already cooperates with Australia and New Zealand on economic and trade policy issues in the framework of partnership agreements concluded respectively in 2008 and 2017. The EU also has bilateral agreements with both countries on mutual recognition of some technical certificates which, by reducing the costs of testing and certifying of exports and imports, facilitate trade in industrial products. Although generally limited, trade barriers for some sectors, such as agriculture or textile products, remain quite substantial.

Key facts on trade with Australia: The EU is Australia's third largest trading partner. Annual bilateral trade amounted to more than €47.7 billion in 2017, with a positive trade balance of more than €21 billion on the EU side. EU's exports to Australia are predominantly manufactured goods while Australia's exports to the EU are dominated by mineral commodities and agricultural products. EU companies supply commercial services worth nearly €20 billion to Australia and hold investments in the country worth more than €160 billion (in 2016).

Key facts on trade with New Zealand: With annual bilateral trade amounting to more than €8.7 billion in 2017, the EU is New Zealand's second largest trading partner after Australia. New Zealand's exports to the EU are largely dominated by agricultural products while EU's exports to New Zealand are focused on manufactured and industrial goods. For the EU, trade with New Zealand results in a positive trade balance of €1.9 billion (in 2017), and EU companies hold more than €10 billion in foreign direct investment in New Zealand.

The start to talks follow the EU's recent agreements with Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, as well as Mexico.

Foreign Affairs Council (Trade), 22/05/2018


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