Australia will only sign a trade deal with the European Union when the agreement includes better market access for agricultural products.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese laid down his bottom line for the ambitious multi-nation trade agreement following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
“Ultimately, our negotiations with the EU will only be concluded when we have a good deal and one that includes new market access for our agricultural products,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Scholz said an ambitious EU-Australia free-trade agreement was an important goal.
“It will support our regions to diversify our trade relations, thus becoming less dependent on individual suppliers,” he said.
National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar, who is in Brussels, said Australian negotiators must continue to hold the line to ensure a “fair and commercially meaningful deal” with the EU.
“This was always going to be a tough negotiation,” he said.
“Fair access to the EU market is something the farm sector has sought for decades.
“While we appreciate the years of hard work that has brought us to this point, and it would be a shame to see that wasted, we are better to walk away than to agree a dud deal.”
Mr Mahar said European deforestation laws were also of concern.
“Read together with a sub-optimal FTA, it could be a significant step backwards for our trade relationship,” he said.
A sticking point in the trade talks is Europe’s objection to Australian food producers using terms such as feta and prosecco.
Australian negotiators argue it is reasonable for farmers to use the terms to represent varieties rather than European regions.
Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Hogan said he agreed with the idea of walking away if farmers were not offered adequate access to the EU market.
Mr Hogan said he would not want to see “grandfathering”, where only existing producers were allowed to use geographical indicators like prosecco.
“That makes it very complicated for the industry moving forward,” he told Sky News.
(Australian Associated Press)