An Australian farm organisation has expressed concern over the current negotiations between the country’s government and the EU over a future trade deal.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has said that a deal between Australia and the EU, based on the current proposals, would be unfairly weighted towards the EU.
The NFF called on the Australian government “not to be bullied into a EU-driven timeline for concluding a deal”.
Fiona Simson, the NFF president, said today (Monday, October 23) that the country’s government should not sign the impending trade deal “unless major improvements are put on the table for Aussie farmers”.
Negotiations between representatives of Australia and the EU are set to take place in Brussels this week, ahead of a further meeting during a summit of trade ministers of the G7 nations in Osaka, Japan, next week.
Simson said that farmers in Australia “are fearful of being sold out at the 11th hour”.
“We have grave concerns that [Australian trade minister Don Farrell] is headed to Osaka with signing pen at the ready,” Simson said.
“We’re yet to hear any indication that the EU is willing to put a commercially meaningful deal on the table. Everything we’ve seen so far would actually send parts of our sector backwards. We’ve never seen a proposed trade deal like it.”
The NFF is calling on Minister Farrell to “exercise patience and restraint”.
“The message from Australian farmers is clear an united. If it’s a dud deal, keep the signing pen in your pocket,” Simson said.
The NFF claims that some of the proposals for inclusion in the deal would put Australian farmers at a disadvantage compared to other nations they compete with, including Canada, New Zealand, and countries in South America.
“The current proposal would lock Aussie farmers in at a disadvantage for the next half-century. We want to see a good deal for everyone. But currently, we’re being asked to sit at the table and watch the EU have its cake and eat it too.”
Simson that Australia should not agree to a deal “just because…the EU throws its weight around”.
“There’s no rush. We should only agree a deal if it’s the right deal,” she added.
The NFF is calling for “fair access” to the EU market for Australian farmers, with the association’s chief executive, Tony Maher, saying in July that this is something Australia’s farm sector “has sought for decades”.
“We want a free trade agreement, but we won’t go backwards to get one,” Maher said.