Australia says it made no progress in trade talks with EU

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia’s trade minister said on Monday that free trade negotiations with European Union officials in Japan over the weekend had failed to make progress.

The two sides have been negotiating since 2018 but Australian farmers have pressured the government not to sign a deal they say does not let enough of their products into the EU market.

Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell met his EU counterpart, Valdis Dombrovskis, at a meeting of Group of Seven (G7) trade ministers in the Japanese city of Osaka on Oct. 28-29.

“I came to Osaka with the intention to finalise a free trade agreement with the European Union,” Farrell said in a statement.

“Unfortunately we have not been able to make progress,” he added. “Negotiations will continue, and I am hopeful that one day we will sign a deal that benefits both Australia and our European friends.”

Australia’s agriculture minister, Murray Watt, said the EU had not “budged significantly” from the offer it put on the table three months ago, returning only with minor tweaks.

Watt said it would be some time before the Australian government and EU leadership would be able to negotiate a deal because of upcoming elections in EU.

“The EU next year will go into its election cycle. It’s always much harder for countries and regions to negotiate these sorts of trade agreements on the eve of elections,” Watt told ABC Radio.

Australia wants a deal to boost its farm exports by removing EU tariffs and expanding quotas. Europe, meanwhile, is likely to gain greater access to Australia’s critical minerals industry.

(Reporting by Peter Hobson. Editing by Gerry Doyle)