Australia-EU FTA – Report on Negotiating Round Seven, 4-20 May 2020
The seventh round of negotiations of the Australia - EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was held on 4-20 May 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the round was conducted virtually, with over 50 videoconferences held between negotiating teams during the round. The round reflected both Australia and the EU’s determination to continue to make progress in the negotiations, even during this difficult time. Our shared objective is to create new opportunities for our respective exporters and investors; demonstrate our ongoing commitment to rules-based trade; and support our shared interest in helping our economies recover from the global pandemic. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade led the Australian delegation, which included representatives from many government agencies.
Trade in Goods
The Parties agreed provisions on Remanufactured Goods, and agreed to incorporate relevant parts of the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation into the trade in goods chapter. The Parties also continued discussions on how best to address Non-Tariff Barriers under the FTA. The Parties also continued positive discussions on goods market access, building upon the exchange of high-ambition initial offers in October 2019. Australia pressed its market access requests across all goods products.
Rules of Origin
The Rules of Origin group had productive discussions on elements of the text, as well as on the Product Specific Rules for metals. The Parties reached provisional agreement in some areas in which there were commonalities in approach. In areas where significant differences remain, we are working constructively to try to reach mutually-beneficial outcomes.
Customs and Trade Facilitation
The Parties moved closer to concluding the Customs and Trade Facilitation chapter. We agreed commitments to facilitate temporary admission of goods, as well as commitments to ensure interested parties are consulted on customs and trade facilitation issues. The Parties will hold intersessional discussions, with a view to resolving the small number of outstanding issues as soon as possible.
With provisions covering Global Safeguards, Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Measures largely agreed, the Parties continued discussions on the EU’s proposed bilateral safeguard mechanism. Both Parties agreed that the proposal would need to be considered in parallel with market access discussions.
Australia and the EU had a constructive exchange of views on the State-Owned Enterprises chapter, including provisions on the scope, regulatory framework and information exchange. Negotiators identified a pathway forward to resolve key differences intersessionally and in future rounds.
Competition and Subsidies
Australia and the EU held positive discussions on the Competition Policy: Anticompetitive Conduct, Merger Control and Subsidies chapter. We improved our respective understandings of each Parties’ systems and policies, and set out a way forward to reflect and accommodate these in the chapter text.
The two sides continued to discuss and improve their understanding of each Parties’ market access interests. We provided an update on our engagement with States and Territories on the EU’s government procurement interests, and continued to advocate Australia’s government procurement market access interests and expectations. Negotiations on the chapter text continued.
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
The TBT group continued work on the chapter text and had detailed discussions on each side’s regulatory and sectoral requirements for conformity assessment. 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
We made progress on negotiations on services and investment market access, building on the exchange of high-ambition initial offers in February 2020. We analysed the commercial significance of each other’s offers, and made new requests in pursuit of an improved revised offer.
We agreed on some further commitments and rules to facilitate two-way investment and services trade. We held productive sessions on services and investment liberalisation, entry and temporary stay, services domestic regulation, professional services, financial services, telecommunications services and maritime services.
We continue to discuss our different approaches to the facilitation of data flows and the importance of this issue to our respective economies. We made substantive progress on other issues in the digital trade chapter, including on provisions new to our FTA practice that will facilitate digital trade between the two Parties.
We agreed to more text across the Chapter, with discussions focusing on copyright and enforcement obligations. Regarding geographical indications, Australia and the European Union deepened discussions on issues raised by Australian stakeholders during the Australian public objections process in 2019.
Australia and the EU made further progress on the Dispute Settlement chapter and Annexes, including the EU’s proposed mediation mechanism. We had constructive discussions on cross-cutting issues, including in the exceptions chapter.
Energy and Raw Materials
Australia and the EU discussed areas of mutual interest for increased trade and investment in the energy and resource sectors, and provided updates on related government policy initiatives.
Trade and Sustainable Development
We had a productive discussion on a number of elements in the chapter, including multilateral labour standards, and trade and climate change, with Australia taking the opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. We made good progress on provisions covering trade and wildlife conservation, scientific and technical information, and transparency, and provided an update on plans for the Technology Investment Roadmap.