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EU aims to seal Australia trade deal in a few months

Swedish Trade Minister Johan Forssell says there is very strong support among European Union countries for a free trade deal with Australia.

The European Commission aims to conclude negotiations on free trade agreements with Australia and Kenya in the next couple of months, as the war in Ukraine and a desire to reduce reliance on China drive a European Union push for partnerships.

European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said on Thursday that the EU executive would put forward for approval very soon an agreement struck with Chile, which could boost EU access to lithium and copper.

"We want to conclude negotiations with Australia and Kenya by the (northern hemisphere) summer," Dombrovskis told a news conference after a meeting of trade ministers in Brussels, adding he would be meeting his Australian counterpart next month.

EU institutions typically take a summer break in August.

Johan Forssell, trade minister of Sweden, which holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, said there was very strong support among ministers for an Australia agreement.

Olivier Becht, trade minister of France, which has proven more reluctant to back trade deals over concerns for its agriculture, said his country viewed the potential Australia agreement favourably.

The same could not be said for an agreement struck with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 2019 that has been put on hold due to EU concerns over rainforest deforestation. 

France in particular has voiced its opposition.

The European Commission has proposed attaching an annex to the agreement to show commitments on deforestation and other areas of sustainability.

"At this stage we have not received the Mercosur counter-proposals. They are working on this. So we are awaiting them soon," Dombrovskis said, adding that he thought an EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit in July could offer an extra impulse to negotiations.


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