Australia warned not to see EU as ‘monolithic’ during free trade talks

Australia warned not to see EU as 'monolithic' during free trade talks

The Ceta deal aims to eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs on exported goods, making it the EU’s most comprehensive trade deal.


“I think it’s important to remember that the EU is not monolithic – it is a voluntary collections of governments with many languages, many systems of government,” Mr Oliphant said.

“While western in its nature, the national identities of each one of those countries need to be respected. The national profiles, obviously, have to be engaged with individually.

“[We were] three minutes to the trading goal to try and nail this down and at the end we recognised that we needed to deal with a sub-regional government in one country to get that done and just had not anticipated.”

Mr Oliphant made the comments in Melbourne on Friday at the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum. He also added thinking of the EU as one body was “dangerous” and governments around the world needed to understand the “personalities” of each EU member.

Senator Birmingham is pushing to ratify a deal with the EU by the end of this year, followed by Britain in early 2021, but those efforts are being hampered by  climate change targets after France tied Australia’s domestic action on climate change to the proposed FTA.

He previously told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald he believed trade agreements were “overwhelmingly commercial undertakings between countries” and they should “focus on commercial realities”, adding Australia would push back on provisions that included sanctions for not meeting climate targets.

The national identities of each one of those countries need to be respected.

Canadian MP Rob Oliphant

“We’re completely committed to meeting our [Paris climate] targets and we’ve always met and exceeded our targets, but I think it would be unprecedented to see those type of provisions proposed in an agreement,” Senator Birmingham said.

China makes up almost 40 per cent of Australia’s export market, but Senator Birmingham is hoping the country’s trade will be more evenly spread with new FTAs.

Mr Oliphant echoed those statements on Friday, stressing although China was an important trading partner, “all eggs can’t be in the one basket”.

“I take comfort in knowing that despite all this tensions and all this noise, there is a silent majority of people continuing to lead trade diversification away from [a handful of countries],” he said.

With Anthony Galloway

Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.

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