TOKYO - Trade talks between the EU and Australia collapsed. A deal, which was being negotiated on the sidelines of the G7 trade ministers’ meeting in Japan, was held up by agricultural demands.
Last-chance negotiations on a trade agreement between Australia and the European Union have fallen through, Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell said on Sunday.
"Unfortunately, we have not been able to make progress," Farrell said in a video statement after informal discussions between Canberra and Brussels. "Negotiations will continue and I am hopeful that, one day, we will sign a deal that benefits both Australia and our European friends."
The talks, held on the sidelines of a meeting of G7 trade ministers in Japan, were seen as a last-ditch attempt for the two sides to bridge remaining gaps.
"The European Commission regrets the lack of progress made during talks in Osaka today. Our negotiating teams made good progress in recent weeks, including in the days leading up to the Osaka meeting. There was optimism that a deal was within reach," a spokesperson for the EU executive said.
"However, ministerial discussions in Osaka did not see the same progress. The Australian side re-tabled agricultural demands that did not reflect recent negotiations and the process between senior officials. The European Commission stands ready to continue negotiations," the spokesperson said.
Australia performed a theatrical walk-out in July, objecting that the offer on the table wouldn’t open the EU market sufficiently to its farm produce. The Australian trade minister warned over the weekend that he'd be ready to walk away again if the offer from Brussels was "not good enough" for Australia.
Before heading to Osaka, Farrell said that failure to reach a deal now would mean having to wait until the next European Commission is appointed after next June's European elections.
Getting better access to the large European market for beef, sugar and sheep meat is an imperative for Australia's large agricultural sector. For Brussels, an agreement would grant better access to Australia's vast reserves of strategic minerals.
Farrell had been expected to meet with EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis on Monday, but that meeting is now off the table. Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski was also in Japan to take part in the negotiations.