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EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Australia’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Tourism, Steven Ciobo, in a phone call concluded discussions on the scope of a potential bilateral free trade agreement.
The preliminary discussions, conducted over the past year between the EU and Australia, aimed to define areas to be covered as well as the level of ambition for a future agreement.
The Commission is currently conducting its assessment of the potential impact that such a trade deal could have for the EU. The study takes into account the agreed scope, new opportunities the agreement could create for EU businesses, as well as sensitivities in the farming sector.
As a next step, the Commission will ask Member States for the authorisation to launch formal negotiations and for the specific negotiating directives.
The prospect of an EU-Australia free trade agreement is part of policy orientations set out in the EU "Trade for All" strategy paper of 2015, backed by all EU Member States. President Juncker, President Tusk and Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Turnbull, expressed in November 2015 their shared commitment to advance towards a trade agreement.
The EU and Australia already cooperate closely on trade policy issues, including in the multilateral area.
The EU is Australia's third largest trading partner. Annual bilateral trade amounts to more than €45.5 billion, with a positive trade balance of more than €19 billion on the EU side. EU exports to Australia include mostly vehicles and machinery but it also registers a trade surplus as far as agri-food sector is concerned.
EU companies supply commercial services worth nearly €20 billion to Australia and hold investment in the country worth more than €145 billion.
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