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Australia firm on feta as EU trade talks hit roadblock

The Australian government is prepared to pull the pin on trade talks with the European Union if negotiations break down further over naming of cheeses and wine.



Australia is willing to walk away from a possible free trade deal with the European Union despite there being a "lot at stake", Agriculture Minister Murray Watt admits.


The EU has been pushing for geographic indicators, which would stop Australian producers from using names such as parmesan, feta or prosecco to label products.


Australia has said the indicators issue is not on the table, leading to a breakdown in talks.


While trade talks were set to be paused with the EU after the impasse, Senator Watt said an agreement had been reached to continue negotiations.


He said Australia was being sensible in calling for geographic indicators not to be used.


"What we're asking for is perfectly reasonable, especially when you compare it to what other countries have been able to negotiate with the EU," Senator Watt told ABC Radio on Thursday.


"It's an emotional issue for Australian producers because we've had a lot of migration post World War II from Europe to Australia that has seen our producers ... bring their own products from their home countries and make them here."


Trade Minister Don Farrell held talks on the issue in Brussels last week as part of the latest round of negotiations, with hopes to land the deal by the middle of the year.


Should the EU free trade agreement go ahead, it would give Australian producers greater access to a market of more than 450 million people.


Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Hogan said if the deal struck was bad for Australia, then the government shouldn't "blink and cave in".


"This was always going to be a tough negotiation given our market access ambitions," he told AAP.


"The government must not compromise on geographical indicators for products such as prosecco, parmesan, and feta."


Senator Watt said the trade agreement could not proceed if negotiations kept stalling.

"There is a lot at stake because, of course, it's important that we do keep opening new and expanded markets for our agricultural producers in Australia, let alone the other goods that we want to export to the EU," he said.


"Our strong preference is to have a deal reached to open up that market access for our agricultural producers and all sorts of other Australian goods and service producers, but if it's not in our national interest to do the deal, then we won't do it."


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