Thursday

14th Dec 2017

EU and Australia push for resumption of Doha talks

Trade representatives from the European Union and Australia say they will push for further progress on the Doha round of multilateral trade talks at a meeting in Paris this week.

"I'm going to Paris with the very strong conviction that we now need to move forward speedily and we need to set a timetable [for the talks]," said European trade commissioner Catherine Ashton following a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (23 June) with Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean.

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Trade ministers from around the World will meet on the sidelines of an annual ministerial meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris later this week (24-25 June) to assess the political willingness to officially resume the Doha talks that stalled in July 2008.

Several non-OECD members have also been invited to the meeting including India, Brazil, Chile, China, Indonesia, Russia, and South Africa, whose agreement will prove vital to securing a multilateral deal.

Mr Crean, who will chair the sideline talks, said he is keen to build on a re-engagement decision taken by the Cairns group – an eclectic bloc of 19 agricultural exporting countries - at a recent meeting in Bali at which China, Japan, India and the US also participated.

"We sense a political desire to want to move to the end-game. We have to capitalise on it," he said.

Recent US and Indian elections have slowed attempts to restart the talks, with the Democrat-dominated US Congress a potential stumbling block for the future.

Ms Ashton and Mr Crean also signed a mutual recognition agreement for product certification procedures on Tuesday, a move that will help to reduce business costs.

Agricultural subsidies

The two sides have traditionally clashed over the EU's farm subsidies, with Australia saying they amount to a major distortion of free trade.

While acknowledging the EU's progress in this area, partially brought about by various reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, Mr Crean said "further work needs to be done."

"The Australian dairy industry has never looked back since it undertook structural reforms because it is producing for a world market competitively and that's what trade should be about," he said.

The EU recently re-introduced dairy exports subsidies to help European farmers struggling with the fall in world milk prices, but has committed to ditching all agricultural export subsidies by 2013, along with other members of the World Trade Organisation.

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