Australia-EU FTA – Report on Negotiating Round Eight, 14-25 September 2020
The eighth round of negotiations of the Australia-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement took place on 14-25 September. Australia hosted the virtual round comprising over 65 videoconferences. We continued to make progress on our shared objective of creating better and new opportunities for exporters and investors, and demonstrating our ongoing commitment to rules-based trade. This is more important than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased access to the EU market is part of our strategy to give Australian exporters more options around the world. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade led the Australian delegation, which included representatives from more than ten government agencies.
The Australian and EU Chief Negotiators hosted a virtual joint stakeholder briefing following the round, attended by over 100 stakeholders from peak bodies, business, industry groups, and civil society. Chief Negotiators provided an update on the progress of negotiations, and responded to stakeholder questions submitted on any aspect of the FTA. The discussions covered a broad range of Australia-EU FTA issues, including market access; government procurement; services and investment; agriculture; digital trade;, geographical indications (GIs); intellectual property; technical barriers to trade (TBT); and economic assessment of the FTA. The EU’s Chief Negotiator also gave an update on the EU’s proposed carbon border adjustment mechanism and Farm to Fork Strategy.
Trade in Goods
Both sides continued to make clear our expectations on goods market access, building upon the exchange of high-ambition initial offers in October 2019. With most of the Trade in Goods chapter already agreed, the Parties also continued discussions on rules to improve transparency of export licensing procedures and to address Non-Tariff Barriers to trade.
Rules of Origin
The Rules of Origin group negotiated Product-Specific Rules, resulting in agreement on several tariff headings. We had deep discussions on key outstanding issues in the chapter text, enhancing the understanding of differing positions.
Customs and trade facilitation
We reached agreement on most of the outstanding issues, including new commitments on customs cooperation. We will hold further intersessional discussions to find solutions to the remaining issues.
Australia and the EU continued to discuss the procedural aspects of the bilateral safeguard mechanism proposed by the EU, and agreed that the scope of any such mechanism would need to be considered in the context of the final market access package.
Competition and Subsidies
After constructive discussions on Competition Policy, Anticompetitive Conduct, Merger Control and Subsidies, only a few issues are yet to be resolved in Anticompetitive Conduct and Merger Control. We mapped out a way forward to finalise these provisions.
Australia and the EU made progress towards agreeing provisions that accommodate both sides’ respective government procurement processes. The parties also discussed how to deliver mutually-beneficial market access outcomes in the interests of each other’s suppliers.
Technical barriers to trade (TBT)
The Parties had detailed discussions on conformity assessment, international standards, and cooperation on market surveillance and non-food product safety. The Australia and EU had a good discussion of the new EU market access proposal in the cars annex.
Services and Investment
Negotiators sought to improve on the already ambitious respective initial services and investment market access offers of each Party. Australia focused on our core commercial interests in pursuit of ambitious services and investment market access outcomes for Australian service suppliers and investors.
The Parties reached agreement on a number of further commitments to facilitate two-way services trade and investment, including in relation to entry and temporary stay, delivery services, professional services, financial 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 steady 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 made real progress on non-GI intellectual property issues, including by agreeing text on trademarks and enforcement obligations. Regarding geographical indications, Australia and the European Union deepened discussions on chapter text. Australia continued to put forward issues raised by Australian stakeholders during the Australian GIs public objections process in 2019. Both sides discussed possible ways forward on GIs, on the understanding that Australia will only agree to protect EU GIs terms, at the end of the negotiations, if the overall deal is good enough..
SPS and Animal Welfare
Australia and the EU had constructive engagement on SPS, and worked on mutually-acceptable text on phytosanitary health conditions and simplified certification procedures.
Energy and Raw Materials
Australia and the EU provided updates on recent government policy announcements and initiatives. We explored potential trade cooperation in the energy and resource sectors.
Trade and Sustainable Development
The Parties discussed all aspects of the chapter, including multilateral labour standards, trade and gender and environmental issues covering climate change, biodiversity, wildlife conservation and trade and sustainable fisheries management. The Parties agreed provisions on trade and forest management. Both sides provided updates on trade and climate change. For Australia, this included the Australian Government’s announcement of a new investment package to enable the rapid deployment of new and emerging low emissions technologies that support economic growth and a sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.
Australia and the EU made progress in the Dispute Settlement chapter, particularly on the mediation mechanism and Rules of Procedures.
Transparency, good regulatory practice, institutional and final provisions
In the Transparency and Good Regulatory Practice chapters, Australia and the EU made further progress by reflecting common practices in both systems. Finally, the parties engaged in detailed discussions for the first time on the Institutional Provisions and Final Provisions chapters, with the EU explaining a number of their new proposals.
We will hold the ninth round before the end of the year, after continuing intersessional discussions across a range of chapters.