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Australia-EU FTA – Report on Negotiating Round Six, Canberra, 10-14 February 2020

Introduction

The sixth round of negotiations on the Australia-EU FTA was held in Canberra on 10-14 February 2020.  The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade led the Australian delegation, which included representatives from eighteen other government agencies.

We exchanged ambitious initial market access offers on services and investment and government procurement ahead of the round. This marks the exchange of all the initial market access offers in the negotiations, with the initial goods offer having already been exchanged before the fifth round. We made constructive and consistent progress across the chapter text.

The Australian and EU Chief Negotiators hosted a joint stakeholder briefing during the round, which was attended by over 100 registered stakeholders from 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 market access, digital trade; climate change; geographical indications (GIs); privacy; ‘sensitive’ EU products; financial services; conformity assessments; innovation; research & development (R&D); technical barriers to trade (TBTs); small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs); innovation; research; intellectual property (‘IP’); copyright; trademarks; Australian automobile sector; labour market testing; movement of natural persons; cheese and dairy; public education; and pharmaceuticals.

We will hold the seventh round of negotiations in coming months, and will also hold intersessional discussions across a range of chapters.

Trade in Goods

The Parties continued positive discussions on goods market access, building on the exchange of high-ambition initial offers in October 2019. Chapter text on Trade in Goods is now well advanced.

Rules of Origin

The Rules of Origin group discussed all areas of the text, as well as the Product-Specific Rules for metals, vehicles, other manufactured products, paper, wood, ceramic and glass. There remain some significant differences between positions, but Parties made progress in agreeing text and have a work plan to bridge the gap in positions.

Customs and Trade Facilitation

The Parties further advanced the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter by agreeing on two additional articles of the text (Objectives and Advance Rulings). The chapter remains on track to deliver outcomes above and beyond the WTO Agreement on Trade Facilitation.

Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters

The Protocol on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters is substantially agreed, with only a small number of FTA-wide legal issues remaining.  The Protocol will establish a framework for closer cooperation between the Parties’ respective customs administrations.

Competition and Subsidies

We improved our respective understandings of each Party’s systems and policies, and set out a way forward to reflect and accommodate these in the chapter text.

Government Procurement

We had a positive first round of market access negotiations, and both sides now have a better understanding of each other’s offers and needs. We continued to advance the chapter text.

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)

We clarified provisions across a range of articles in the TBT chapter and the EU’s proposed annex on vehicles. We exchanged views on possible updates of the sectoral annexes to the current EU-Australia Mutual Recognition Agreement on Conformity Assessment, Certificates and Markings. Australia continues to seek views from Australian stakeholders on possible sectoral annexes to the TBT chapter. Sectoral annexes can be used to promote common standards and harmonisation of requirements for specific products.

Services and Investment

Australia and the EU had preliminary discussions on services and investment market access, following the exchange of initial offers prior to the round.

We held dedicated sessions on investment liberalisation, capital movements, cross-border trade in services, financial services, entry and temporary stay, professional services, delivery services and maritime services. We continued to make progress in agreeing rules, provisions and commitments to facilitate our two-way services trade and investment.

Digital Trade

Substantive progress was made on digital trade. We reached agreement on a few provisions and developed compromise texts on some key outstanding issues for both sides to consider. Both sides reiterated their respective positions on data flows and protection of personal data.

Intellectual Property

More text was agreed across the chapter, including within sections on general provisions, copyright, trademarks and enforcement. Regarding geographical indications, Australia provided an outline of the concerns raised by industry and other stakeholders in the public objections process on GI names. We noted we were preparing full documentation of Australian concerns and arguments, and would provide it to the EU at a later point. The EU also provided more guidance on parts of GI names for which it was not seeking protection.

SPS and Animal Welfare

Constructive work continued on the SPS chapter, with some convergence on provisions reflecting both Parties’ practice and regulatory systems.  The Parties agreed that they would establish a committee on SPS measures.

Trade and Sustainable Development

We discussed all aspects of the chapter, including commitments in relation to multilateral labour standards, trade and gender and multilateral environment agreements.  We covered a broad range of trade and environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and wildlife conservation, as well as cooperation on the circular economy and sustainable oceans economy.  We agreed provisions on responsible business conduct, and made further progress on trade and sustainable fisheries and forest management.

Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices

Australia and the EU made further progress in the Transparency and Good Regulatory Practices Chapters, including by reflecting common practices in both systems.

Energy and Raw Materials

The EU and Australia discussed all articles and clarified positions, including areas of mutual interest. The EU provided an update on policy priorities for the new European Commission, and Australia made a presentation on Australia’s Hydrogen Strategy.

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