Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan insists Australia-EU free trade agreement negotiations are proceeding as usual, despite growing unease over France’s treatment by Australia when finalizing the Aukus agreement.

Tehan’s trip to Europe early next month will now be partly devoted to trying to ease tensions with the European Commission which has requested a ‘please explain’ on Australia’s relations with its key member state, France. , both by canceling a $ 90 billion submarine contract and concluding an Indo-Pacific strategic deal that excludes Europe.

In a speech to the National Press Club to be delivered early Wednesday afternoon, Tehan will propose an attempt at peace ahead of crucial talks with Australia’s second-largest trading partner, and announce an offer on key geographical indications.

“The FTA negotiations are always difficult and hotly contested, but we have made substantial progress in Rounds 10 and 11 of negotiations,” Tehan said in a speech excerpt released prior to his appearance.

“Key areas of the negotiations have developed positively, including market access for goods, services and investments, and in areas of particular interest to the EU, such as geographical indications.

“In fact, to demonstrate the standstill approach that we continue to take, I just signed our IG offer so that our negotiators can discuss it with the EU over the next few days.”

A geographical indication identifies products as being produced in particular regions, and the EU has fought for its member states to have more control over brands for traditional products.

Australian exporters have retreated, especially for products such as prosecco, which the EU wants to rename glera if it is produced anywhere other than the northeastern region of Italy.

It is not yet known whether an offer to rename a feta produced in Australia to crumbly salty white cheese is on the table, or if an offer would be enough to calm the European Commission, which France has asked to “reconsider” the inclusion of Australia in any free trade agreement.

The chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, Bernd Lange, said he expected to see “some sort of apology, some sort of de-escalation of the situation, from the Australian government” on his back. management of the French submarine contract, and the announcement of Aukus.

“The question of trust is now, and some members might ask for more safety nets, more guarantees,” Lange told ABC radio on Tuesday.

In his speech, Tehan will say that it was in the EU’s interest to conclude a free trade agreement with Australia.

“The EU will use it as a way to strengthen its engagement with the Indo-Pacific, as they realize that the region carries the economic weight of the world,” the project says.

“When I was in Europe in May to visit Germany, Belgium and France, I heard a common refrain, if Europe cannot negotiate an FTA with Australia, with whom in the Indo -Pacific could they negotiate one? “

He also expects the French to return.

“For the French, who export $ 6.17 billion in goods and services to Australia while we send $ 1.37 billion the other way, a full FTA is in their best interests. This would see our economic partnership develop even further. “

“We have a strong relationship with the EU, based on our shared commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and economic openness.

“And the sign of a healthy relationship is the ability to sit down and discuss issues face to face and, if necessary, have difficult conversations.”

The EU is not the only pressing trade issue Australia faces. China has officially applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia , Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

The move is believed to be part of China’s strategic push to increase its influence in shaping international trade rules. Australia opposes China’s entry into the deal, until it agrees to end its existing trade strikes against Australia.

Tehan’s said any existing CPTPP member would want to be sure that any new member will meet, implement and uphold the high standards of the agreement as well as its commitments with the World Trade Organization and its existing trade agreements.

“It is in everyone’s best interests that everyone play by the rules,” he is expected to say.

China has previously expressed dissatisfaction with Australia’s rulings by denying or imposing tariffs on Australian products already subject to trade agreements, while leaving Australian ministers out of the talks.

This is something Tehan disputes in his speech, claiming that any attempt by the Chinese government to get into the CPTPP pack would mean “you have to be able to sit down, look your business partner in the eye and talk about this membership process.” .

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