EU to speed up trade talks with Australia, New Zealand

According to Agence France-Presse reported on June 3, a senior EU official said on the 3rd that the EU will step up efforts to finalize trade talks with Australia, New Zealand and Chile, while ensuring that appropriate environmental standards are met.

Following a meeting of the 27-member trade ministers, EU trade commissioner Valdice Dombrovskis said there was “a very broad consensus” that the EU needs to “strengthen and speed up reaching, signing and ratifying” work on trade agreements”.

The European Union has been spooked by former U.S. President Donald Trump’s shift to highly protectionist policies, prompting it to shift its focus to a more defensive trade policy.

France, which currently holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency, encouraged this but called for a more cautious approach to trade deals, especially those with Mercosur that have been struck but not yet ratified.

The Czech Republic and Sweden, which will next hold the EU presidency, are lobbying for a return to a freer trade stance, centered on a free trade agreement.

“When it comes to the free trade agenda, I think the EU needs to do more, faster,” Swedish Trade Minister Anna Hallberg said ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg.

“We need to be meaningful trading partners, attractive trading partners, and we have many trade deals on the table. We need to get them done now,” she added.

The most ambitious goal is for the European Commission to complete negotiations with Chile, New Zealand and Australia by the end of this year.

The European Commission also wants to ratify agreements already reached with Mexico and Mercosur, but these have been mired in legal uncertainty.