The fifth round of negotiations on the Australia-EU FTA was held in Canberra on 14-18 October. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade led the Australian delegation, which included representatives from nineteen other government agencies. A Deputy Director-General for Trade led the EU delegation.
Following Australia’s publication of the list of product names the EU wants Australia to protect as geographical indications (GIs) and an initial exchange of goods market access offers, we had a positive and constructive fifth round of negotiations.
The Australian 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. Stakeholders were able to ask questions on any aspect of the FTA. The discussions covered a broad range of issues, including the market access offers, GIs, intellectual property rights, temporary movement of people, e-commerce, environmental protection, telecommunications; SPS and the new European Parliament.
We will hold the sixth round of negotiations in early 2020, and will hold intersessional discussions on a range of issues before then.
Trade in Goods
Australia and the EU made progress on the National Treatment and Market Access for Goods chapter, with most provisions now agreed. The Parties also continued discussions on market access for goods, following the exchange of initial offers in early October.
Rules of Origin
The Rules of Origin group had detailed discussions across Sections A and B of the chapter text, as well as on the Product Specific Rules for Minerals, Chemicals and Plastics, Leather, Textiles, Clothing and Footwear and Machinery. Although differences between positions remain, Parties identified further similarities and opportunities to bridge the gap in those positions.
Customs and Trade Facilitation
Australia and the EU held further fruitful discussions on the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter. The Parties reached agreement on additional elements of the chapter, including on the key aspects of Temporary Admission.
We agreed on further provisions relating to anti-dumping and countervailing duties, and engaged constructively on procedural aspects for a bilateral safeguard mechanism. The safeguard mechanism will require further discussion at future rounds.
We had a useful exchange on the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) chapter, focusing mostly on discussing what we wanted to achieve through an SOEs chapter and the proposed obligations.
Competition and Subsidies
Our discussions on the Competition Policy: Anticompetitive Conduct, Merger Control and Subsidies chapter clarified provisions and improved each other’s understanding of the Parties’ respective systems and policies.
We agreed provisions that accommodate both of the Parties’ respective government procurement processes. Australia and the EU continued to discuss the interests of suppliers in each other’s government procurement markets.
Technical Barriers to Trade
We continued to work on all aspects of the Technical Barriers to Trade chapter, with a particular focus on our respective approaches for conformity assessment. We held further productive discussions on the EU’s proposed annex on vehicles. 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 agreed to exchange initial services and investment market access offers in coming months.
Similar to previous rounds, 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 made progress in agreeing rules, provisions and commitments that will facilitate our two-way services trade and investment.
Australia and the EU made good progress on digital trade/e-commerce with a number of provisions agreed that accommodate the Parties’ respective processes. We continued to improve each other’s understanding of our respective positions on data flows and protection of personal data.
We moved forward in the sections on trade marks, copyright and general provisions. On geographical indications, both sides discussed their respective approaches to the chapter text, and Australia provided an update on the public objections process, launched on 13 August.
SPS and Animal Welfare
Steady progress continued to be made on the SPS chapter, clarifying each Party’s objectives and working to develop mutually agreed provisions in key areas.
Trade and Sustainable Development
We had useful discussions on all aspects of the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter, including the objectives, definitions, right to regulate and levels of protection, dispute settlement, multilateral labour standards, trade and gender, sustainable fisheries, and multilateral environmental agreements, including climate change, biodiversity and conservation. We made good progress on provisions covering trade and sustainable forest management and responsible business conduct.
Australia and the EU advanced discussions on the Dispute Settlement chapter and Annexes, including progressing the EU’s proposed mediation mechanism.
Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices
Australia and the EU made progress in the Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices chapters and undertook constructive discussions on cross cutting issues.
Small and Medium Enterprises
Australia and the EU share a joint commitment to concluding the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) chapter to help ensure that SMEs can benefit from trade agreements. Australian SMEs looking to export to the EU will, for the first time, be able to access the EU’s comprehensive online database. The chapter addresses a key recommendation of the recent Parliamentary Inquiry access to free trade agreements by small and medium sized enterprises; that the Australian Government make better use of data and technology, delivering simplified, user-friendly digital resources and trade technologies to assist SMEs.