The third round of negotiations on the Australia-EU FTA was held in Canberra on 25-29 March. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade led the Australian delegation, which included representatives from eighteen other government agencies. A Deputy Director-General for Trade led the EU delegation.
We made further progress across the FTA in a constructive atmosphere, and narrowed differences on text across the board. Both sides continued to work hard towards the shared goal of delivering ambitious outcomes for exporters, small businesses and consumers.
We continued our useful discussions on goods and market access and on services and investment. We are working towards a first exchange of market access offers when we are both ready to do so. We will hold the fourth round of negotiations in July 2019, and will hold intersessional videoconferences on a range of issues before then.
The Australia and EU Chief Negotiators hosted a joint stakeholder briefing during the round, which was attended by registered stakeholders from across peak bodies, business, industry groups and civil society. Chief Negotiators provided an update on the progress of negotiations. The EU Chief Negotiator announced the launch of the EU Sustainability Impact Assessment process.
Stakeholders were able to ask questions on any aspect of the FTA. The discussion covered a broad range of issues, including services and investment market access, rules of origin, temporary movement of people, intellectual property, including geographical indications, e-commerce, professional services, labour standards, environmental protection and dispute settlement.
Trade in Goods
Australia and the EU held further constructive discussions on National Treatment and Market Access for Goods Chapter, with most provisions now agreed. The Parties also discussed the parameters for future initial goods market access offers.
Rules of Origin
Australia and the EU made steady progress during discussions on Rules of Origin text. Australia and the EU exchanged initial Product Specific Rules (PSRs) proposals ahead of the third round, and had constructive discussions on both sides’ positions.
Customs and Trade Facilitation
Australia and the EU agreed to some provisions in the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter. We discussed text proposals to find ways to reflect differences in legal systems between Australia and the EU.
Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters
Australia and the EU continued to discuss and agree to further text provisions in the Protocol on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters.
The parties had an exchange on disciplines relating to antidumping, global safeguards, as well as transitional safeguards within the FTA. These issues require more discussions.
Both sides achieved a greater understanding of the intended provisions through discussions on state-owned enterprises.
Competition and Subsidies
Australia and the EU discussed textual proposals on competition and subsidies, for the first time during the third round. We made good progress on clarifying individual provisions, including reaching broad agreement on the overall objectives. Parties agreed that discussions on subsidy provisions would take into account future discussions in the WTO.
Australia and the EU made steady progress on government procurement. Both sides provided further explanation of our respective approaches to the chapter, agreed on several provisions, and set up progress for future rounds.
Technical Barriers to Trade
Australia and the EU agreed to provisions across a range of articles, including international standards, conformity assessment and transparency. We agreed to begin reviewing the current EU-Australia Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment, Certificates and Markings, in a separate but related process to the FTA negotiations. Australia and the EU also agreed to next steps on the EU’s proposed annexes on automotives and supplier declarations of conformity. Australia continues to seek views from Australian stakeholders on possible sectoral annexes. Sectoral annexes can be used to promote common standards and harmonisation of requirements for specific products.
Services and Investment
We share ambition with the EU on achieving high-quality outcomes on services and investment. We held dedicated sessions on investment liberalisation, capital movements, cross-border trade in services, financial services, entry and temporary stay, professional services and telecommunication services. We were able to make progress in agreeing a number of threshold issues, including in relation to structure, core provisions and definitions. In relation to outstanding issues, we identified areas of commonality and options for progress at future rounds.
Round 3 was our first opportunity to consider the Australian and EU e-commerce/digital trade chapter texts side by side, and our focus was on merging the two texts into one document. We discussed the provisions in detail, indicating where we could work with each other’s text, and where we needed to undertake further consultation and analysis
Australia and the EU continued discussions on all areas of the Intellectual Property chapter, including copyright and related rights, designs, patents, trademarks, geographical indications, plant varieties, undisclosed information (including trade secrets) and enforcement of intellectual property rights. The session focused on areas where progress could be made and on merging the text approaches of both sides. We identified some specific areas of convergence, resulting in a narrowing of differences across some text provisions. Both sides have committed to a range of intersessional follow-up tasks to help prepare for the next round of negotiations.
SPS and Animal Welfare
Discussions on provisions on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) protection were very productive. We agreed substantively on a number of articles covering issues such as objectives, technical consultations, emergency measures and transparency. The EU and Australia were able to explain the technical issues surrounding each other’s text proposals in more detail. The EU provided more detail on its proposals on animal welfare and combatting antimicrobial resistance, for Australia’s further consideration.
Trade and Sustainable Development
Australia provided initial comments on the EU’s proposed Trade and Sustainable Development chapter. The discussion covered commitments on labour standards, decent work and the fundamental ILO conventions and protocols. We also discussed commitments in relation to multilateral environment agreements, including trade and climate change, sustainable fisheries and forestry, as well as trade and conservation and biodiversity. Australia presented proposals on forced labour, corporate social responsibility, sustainable forest management and environmental goods and services. Both sides discussed cross-cutting and institutional issues, including options to reference trade and gender issues. Australian experts gave presentations on climate change and agriculture and the circular economy.
Energy and Raw Materials
Australia and the EU discussed the EU’s proposed Chapter on Energy and Raw Materials. The EU agreed to narrow the scope of its proposed Chapter to remove a range of products (including forestry and textile products). Australia and the EU agreed to a way forward on cooperation provisions and discussed next steps. Australia noted the need for further consultation with business and government stakeholders on the EU’s proposed provisions.
Australia and the EU had detailed and constructive discussions with the EU on the Dispute Settlement Chapter and Annexes. They reached broad agreement on the Chapter and Annexes, including the EU’s proposed mediation mechanism, subject to further discussions on certain rules and procedures (such as non-violation claims and timeframes).
Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices
Australia and the EU had a detailed discussion of our respective text proposals and agreed to provisions as appropriate, in the Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices chapters.
Small and Medium Enterprises
Australia and the EU consolidated respective text proposals and agreed to some provisions for the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Chapter. We both seek to ensure that the benefits, details and requirements of the final FTA will be easily accessible to European and Australian SMEs.