Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says free trade negotiations with the European Union will resume in the coming months, following a pledge from the European Commission president.
Most important points:
- Mr Albanian says European leaders are now much more willing to re-enter trade talks with Australia
- It comes after a rift in relations with the previous government due to inaction on climate change, and the decision to cancel a submarine deal with France
- Europe is Australia’s second largest trading partner, with a market of 450 million people and a GDP of more than $20 trillion
Negotiations have stalled for nearly a year, with Anthony Albanese blaming a diplomatic spat with the French government and worrying about his predecessor’s stance on climate change.
Mr Albanese said Ursula von der Leyen expressed a desire at a sideline meeting of the NATO summit to restart the negotiations, with a possible resumption of the discussion before October.
“We want to see real progress between now and March… and that means holding multiple meetings and identifying what issues need to be resolved,” Mr Albanese said after the meeting.
“It is clearly in Australia’s interest to diversify our trade relationships.
Mr Albanese said a free trade agreement would allow more European companies to be established in Australia and more Australian products to be exported.
Europe is Australia’s second largest trading partner, with a market of 450 million people and a GDP of approximately $15 trillion (more than $20 trillion).
“At the moment there are several barriers to our trade here in Europe and we need to ensure that we do more trade with like-minded countries for the benefit of both Europe and Australia,” said Mr Albanese.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who called Scott Morrison a liar after canceling a $90 billion submarine contract, met Mr Albanese in Madrid on Tuesday evening.
“I have had a very constructive discussion… I am very much looking forward to my visit to Paris and I thank President Macron for his welcome,” said Mr Albanese.
Asia-Pacific democracies at NATO summit
Mr. Albanese also attended a meeting with the leaders of Japan, Korea and New Zealand, who were also invited to attend the NATO summit.
The Madrid meeting was dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with leaders fondly describing President Vladimir Putin’s actions as a strategic misstep that has united democratic nations.
The inclusion of countries in Asia-Pacific has been described by some analysts as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in the region.
“I think our collective presence here in Madrid at the invitation of NATO demonstrates the importance of the Indo-Pacific for global peace and security,” Albanian told the meeting.
“Each of us is a critical proponent of a stronger and more sustainable engagement of NATO, Europe and the United States in our region.
“Only by working together can partners offer real choice to countries in the region and take tangible steps to ensure peace, stability and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific.”