ANU book examines future Australia-EU trade deal

12 July 2017

A new book exploring the challenges and opportunities of a free trade agreement between Australia and the European Union (EU) has been published by ANU Press.

The volume, edited by Associate Professor Pierre van der Eng of the ANU Research School of Management and ANU academics Annmarie Elijah, Don Kenyon and Karen Hussey, brings together a range of arguments and practical considerations for a new trade agreement with the EU.

Australia's trade relationship with the European Union is an important one. the EU is Australia's second most important trading partner, following China, when it comes to two-way trade in goods and services.

The book notes that a new free trade agreement between Australia and the EU would bring benefits such as improved EU market access for Australia's beef, grain, sugar, lamb and dairy products.

But the path towards a trade agreement between Australia and the EU hasn't always been straightforward.

Associate Professor Pierre van der Eng says it has taken some time for talks about a trade agreement to begin because both Australia and the EU were strongly committed to the multilateral path towards trade liberalisation in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"The EU's interest in Australia remained marginal for historical reasons and because Australia is a relatively small trade partner from the EU's perspective. So it was up to Australia to make a case for a free trade agreement with the EU," he said.

"Only when the Doha Round started to stall did countries start to look towards the next best option: regional and bilateral free trade agreements with clauses that went beyond their commitments under WTO."

Australia and the EU are expected to launch discussions about a trade agreement in November 2017, but Associate Professor van der Eng said it could take a few years to complete the agreement, depending on the depth of the ambitions from both sides.

The book, titled Australia, the European Union and the New Trade Agenda, is part of a cross-disciplinary ARC Linkage Project involving ANU academics from various Colleges. It was supported by several Australian Government departments (DAFF, DIIS, DFAT), as well as the European-Australian Business Council and the Delegation of the European Union.

The book is available for free download on the ANU Press website