Australia-EU free trade negotiations under way

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday announced the start of negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union, pushing regulations and initiatives for innovation and tech startups.

In a joint statement, Prime Minister Turnbull and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the agreement will give Australian businesses preferential access to the EU, opening up a market with 500 million consumers and $17.3 trillion in GDP.

“We are seeking an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement to drive Australian exports, economic growth, and create new Australian jobs,” Ciobo and Turnbull said in the statement.

“We will look to lock in access and create new commercially meaningful opportunities for Australian services exporters, with a focus on education, financial, and professional services.

“We will also explore rules and initiatives to support the digital economy, innovation, and increase opportunities for high-technology startups.”

The first round of negotiations will be held in Brussels in early July.

The soon-to-be 27-country European bloc is Australia’s second largest trading partner, third largest export destination, and second largest services market.  The EU was Australia’s largest source of foreign investment in 2017.

“Australian exporters are currently at a disadvantage to many of our biggest competitors because Australia lacks preferential access into the EU,” Ciobo and Turnbull said.

The EU deal would be the latest in a line of trade deals that includes pacts with China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Peru, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.