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EU Economics

European Union-Aust trade talks delayed

Delays are expected ahead of free trade talks between Australia and the EU.

Australia and the European Union are unlikely to officially fire the gun on the start of free trade negotiations this year.

European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom had been expected to travel to Australia and New Zealand this week.

The two countries are separately aiming to secure free trade pacts with the EU, however, AAP understands there have been delays on the European side.

The EU parliament has granted the Commission – executive branch – permission to begin negotiations, however, the 28 member states are yet to officially approve a mandate.

Ms Malmstrom’s trip is likely to be postponed until early next year.

The new European Union Ambassador to Australia Michael Pulch said the bloc was working on a new fast-tracking process.

Once the trade negotiations are finalised the deal will only have to be ratified by the EU Parliament and member states rather than all the national parliaments of Europe as well.

“Australia will be a unique undertaking, together with New Zealand… This sets a precedent,” Mr Pulch told AAP.

The fast-tracking process is in response to a European Court of Justice ruling concerning a Singapore deal as well as a Belgian regional parliament throwing a spanner in the works for the EU-Canada deal.

Christophe Lecourtier, the former French ambassador to Australia who now heads up Business France, said the feeling in France – after the Canadian experience and an aborted US-EU deal – was that the EU Commission was seen as following its own agenda.

“Standards are much higher in the EU… at some point people discover we agreed to import food that has been produced with lower standards and many react pretty badly when they understand that,” Mr Lecourtier said.

French consumers, in particular, he said were worried about antibiotics in beef.

* Lisa Martin travelled to France as a guest of the French Embassy in Canberra.

https://www.perthnow.com.au/business/economics/european-union-aust-trade-talks-delayed-ng-s-1803308

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