Manufacturing News

Europe deal fell over as EU was asking too much – minister

Manufacturing News

By Peter Roberts

It is not surprising that talks for a Europe Australia Free Trade deal have fallen over as Australia has little to give up to the EU and Europe has everything to lose from anything resembling free trade.

Australia has systematically dismantled industry protection since the 1980s when there were quotas on imports and tariffs in some cases above 200 percent.

We have the most open market in the world with tariffs of two or three percent at most – EU companies can already export anything they want to Australia without restraint.

Europe on the other hand has a complex and stifling protection system especially for their farmers and their ‘way of life’ with tentacles reaching round the world. No one outside Europe can use the terms champagne or port for example.

Farmers in Europe are essentially subsidised to stay on the land and produce everything from tomatoes to olive oil that are then dumped on foreign markets including our own….further killing off local competitors.

So instead of any reduction of protection, the Europeans were insisting on our producers dropping the use of terms that they consider their own such as feta and parmesan. In return they weren’t giving away better access for our red meat, dairy and sugar.

As Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite put it on ABC: “The view of the government is that what the European Union is asking goes too far, particularly when it comes to the naming of products that are well known on the Australian market and the Australian consumers use on a daily basis and of course, ensuring that we’re getting better access and benefits for Australian farmers and the agricultural sector.

“And that hasn’t been the result of those negotiations to date.”

Note that Australia was not talking much about access for our maufactures, true to form as a resources economy we were talking about providing preferential access to our critical minerals.

The fact is Europe has no need of better access to our markets, and the raw materials that totally dominate our exports are already sold on open global markets.

We have little to offer them, and they are not giving anything up – hence make silly demands of Australia. What will it be next, that we can’t use red white and blue on our flags because European countries used these first?

Thistlethwaite again: “It may be the case we shouldn’t simply sign a free trade agreement with any nation or group simply for the sake of signing a free trade agreement.

“We have to defend Australian values and importantly, producers and employees in the Australian economy.”


Picture: Matt Thistlethwaite

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