Delegation of the European Union to Australia
The chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, Bernd Lange, is confident the EU and Australia can strike a balanced and ambitious free trade agreement.
Mr Lange led a trade delegation made up of six European parliamentarians to Australia that visited Canberra and Sydney in November on a fact finding mission into the proposed EU-Australia FTA.
“A free trade deal with Australia would help the EU intensify its economic integration with the Asia- Pacific region at a time when others are withdrawing into isolation,” Mr Lange said. “Trade must be
based on common values, respect for core labour standards and the rule of law, not the rule of power.”
The visit came at an important time with the European Parliament having passed a resolution in late October giving the EU-Australia FTA agreement the green light and set guidelines for future negotiations.
Mr Lange said Australia was an important partner for the EU in many respects.
“In the field of trade we have a long, successful history of cooperation in the WTO, which we now want to deepen,” he said.
“We see the potential for a modern and balanced agreement that paves the way for new
opportunities, while upholding our high standards and the protection of our citizens.”
During their two-day trip to Australia, the European parliamentarians discussed opportunities and potentially contentious issues, such as trade in farming products and policies on climate change, which could have an impact on negotiations.
Members also discussed multilateral trade issues and studied regional trade cooperation.
They met with Australian Government members as well as EU companies, local businesses, trade unions, academics, civil society and indigenous representatives.
“We covered a broad range of topics that covered the positive aspects of any deal between the EU and Australia, as well the challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Lange said.
“After all our discussions, I am confident the EU and Australia can strike a balanced deal that will result in greater jobs and more investment in our regional and urban areas.
“Furthermore, we explained that trade is more than just reducing tariffs. Trade is about ensuring
everyone is better off. This would include provisions covering core labour standards and multilateral environmental agreements.”
The trip included a visit to Government House in Canberra where the Governor-General Peter
Cosgrove got behind the wheel of a golf cart and led a tour of the grounds to see the resident mob of 50 kangaroos.
The European Council is expected to adopt the negotiating mandates soon, clearing the way for talks to start. The outcome of negotiations will have to be approved by the European Parliament.
Australia’s exports to the EU are dominated by minerals and agricultural products, while most EU exports to Australia are manufactured goods.
Participants of the delegation included Bernd Lange (Germany), Adam Szejnfeld (Poland), Karoline Graswander-Hainz (Austria), Emma McClarkin (UK) Hannu Takkula, (Finland), Klaus Buchner (Germany).