By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia and the European Union will resume free trade talks on Thursday with a teleconference between Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell and EU Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis, a month after the two sides failed to reach a deal.
Differences over access for Australian agricultural products, particularly beef, to EU markets saw Australia walk away from signing an agreement in Europe in July.
Australia is keen to have wider access for its beef, lamb, dairy products and wines, much of which are subject to tariffs and quotas.
Both sides are looking to diversify trade, with EU flows affected by the Russia and Ukraine war and Australian exports hurt after major trading partner China imposed blocks on a raft of farm products in a 2020 political dispute.
Farrell said in an interview with Reuters last week that he hoped for an improved EU offer when he next speaks with Dombrovskis, whom he has invited to visit Australia. A source familiar with the matter said the teleconference would take place on Thursday.
Farrell also said a free trade agreement would simplify European investment in Australia’s burgeoning critical minerals sector, in part by smoothing access through mandatory Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) screening.
Australia supplies around half of the world’s lithium, as well as other minerals such as rare earths used in batteries for electric cars and defence, amid a global push to diversify supply chains away from dominant producer China.
“We want European investment … but they’ve got to understand that as part of that process they’ve got to make a realistic offer,” he said.
The EU and Australia opened negotiations in 2018.