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Australia to start Free-Trade Negotiations with EU

Australia will begin negotiations with the European Union on a free-trade agreement covering a market with 500 million people and worth $17.3 trillion, making it one of the country’s biggest potential deals.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government will start negotiations with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom in Brussels next month to secure better access for Australian agricultural products, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said in an emailed statement. Trade on commodities including beef, sheep meat, sugar, cheese and rice are “significantly constrained” by EU tariffs.

“This is significant for Australian businesses. We’re opening the door to the
world’s largest markets and giving them a competitive advantage,” Ciobo said. “We will now have agreements, or negotiations underway, with all of our top 10 trading partners.”

The negotiations come amid a developing trade war between the U.S. and China, with President Donald Trump last week slapping duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports and drawing a swift in-kind response from Beijing. The EU is also embroiled in a difficult negotiation with the U.K. over Britain’s plans to leave the European bloc.

In addition to reducing specific European tariffs on products including almonds, silicon and automotive parts, Australia wants to lock in access for services exporters in sectors including education, financial and professional services, Ciobo said.

“While countries are building barriers, we are knocking them down to create
new opportunities for Australian businesses,” Ciobo said.

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