Don Farrell’s High Noon for European Free Trade Deal, and Hopes

Transcription Trade with China. AU-EU Free Trade Agreement. Electoral reform. Michelle Grattan: Anthony Albanese will be in China next week. He is the first Australian PM to visit China since 2016. The China-Australian relations have been gradually unfrozen over the last year and a quarter, as China has removed most of its restrictions on Australian products. China has agreed to review its prohibitive wine tariffs within the next five-month period.

Don Farrell, the Trade Minister, has been the focal point of the negotiations and will accompany the Premier to China. He will first be in Japan for the G7 trade ministers meeting this weekend. He’ll also be meeting with European counterparts to discuss the controversial issue of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and the European Union. This will likely be the High Noon for this agreement. Either the ship will land, or Australia will leave.

Don Farrell is here today to discuss Trade and his other role as Special Minister of State – electoral reform. Don Farrell will be in Japan meeting with European Union counterparts to try and ink a Free Trade Agreement. You have said that you will not sign anything unless Australia benefits. Do you see any prospects of success?

Don Farrell, Minister of Trade: Michelle, I will meet with the Europeans in an optimistic and open-minded manner. When I felt that the Europeans had not made us a fair offer, I was forced out of Brussels earlier this year. The time between then and now will give them an opportunity to make us a better offer. If it is good enough, I recommend to the Australians that we accept it.

At the end of it all, I have to decide what is in the best interest of Australia. If the positives outweigh the negatives, which are always present in any agreement, I feel I owe the Australian people the duty to say, “yes, we will sign this deal.”

Michelle Grattan: Isn’t this the High Noon Weekend? If you cannot get a good deal, then that’s the end of it.

Minister for Trade (translated): I believe for a variety of reasons. Not least, if we don’t have a deal by this time, the Europeans will be moving into their election cycle next year. We would have missed the chance to resolve this issue for at least two years.

Michelle Grattan: Let’s now turn our attention to the China visit, and in particular the wine deal. In 2019, we sold more than one billion dollars worth of wine in China. In 2022, we will be down to only 16 million bottles, which is a massive, huge drop. This has had a greater impact on wine producers than other commodities. I believe you still live in your old vineyard.

Minister of Trade: Yes, I am. Clare Valley is a beautiful part of the world. Yes. Look, there are roughly 170,000 wine workers in Australia. The wine industry is a major employer and is particularly important in South Australia. 50 percent of Australian wine and 80 percent of premium wines come from South Australia. One of the main reasons for our high sales was that we sold a lot more premium wine to China. I saw first-hand that my neighbors from the Clare Valley left their red grapes on their vines this year. They didn’t remove them because their vats were already full of wine they couldn’t sell in previous years.

We have been working hard on this problem. As you correctly stated, the Chinese knew how crucial it was to us. We found it difficult to find other markets for our products, such as India or the United Kingdom. This was a breakthrough last weekend. Next week, I will be going to China along with the Prime minister. The Chinese would have indicated by then that they were ready to move forward on this issue. In the same way as the barley case, we are to suspend our World Trade Organisation complaint in exchange for a rapid review of tariffs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *