AHK Event Report: Roundtable luncheon Australia-EU FTA with European Commissioner Dr Cecilia Malmström

This sold-out event on 19 June at the New South Wales Parliament was held on the occasion of the launch of the formal negotiations for an Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The German-Australian Chamber joint the European Australian Business Council (EABC) for a luncheon discussion with European Commissioner Dr Cecelia Malmström. This sold-out event on 19 June at the New South Wales Parliament was held on the occasion of the launch of the formal negotiations for an Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Commissioner Malmström travelled to Australia to launch the FTA before continuing to New Zealand to launch the separate EU-New Zealand FTA negotiations.

The opening was provided by Jason Collins, CEO of the EABC, who emphasised the broad European history in Australia. The over 140 guests at the event were then welcomed to the NSW Parliament House by the President of the NSW Legislative Council, the Hon John Ajaka MLC, and to the luncheon by European Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Dr Michael Pulch. Further remarks, also in regards to the very strong links from all of Europe to New South Wales, were delivered by the Hon Niall Blair MLC, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Regional Water, and Minister for Trade and Industry. He emphasised that NSW is open for business and is looking forward to deepening its economic links with Europe further. Commissioner Malmström was then introduced by the Hon Simon Crean in his function as Deputy Chair of the EABC Board.

Commissioner Malmström then delivered a comprehensive keynote address where spoke about this specific agreement and its opportunities as well as the current global situation. She recognises that that trade is being used as a scapegoat for other issues. She clearly pointed out that hiding behind fences is no solution, but that at the same time trade must deliver benefits for all. Trust is a key element and this is closely connected with transparency. Therefore, the European Union will be very transparent also in the negotiations for the EU-Australia FTA. It is particularly important that small to medium-sized enterprises (SME) benefit from free trade agreements and therefore the EU-Australia FTA should have a dedicated SME-Chapter. For the EU, also sustainable development, anti-corruption arrangements and climate change are important elements that could be covered in a corporate government chapter.

Australia and the EU share many common values and this agreement will be negotiated between a circle of friends. However, there will be also be some controversial points, including geographical indicators that Commissioner Malmström sees as important both for the EU and Australia.

The luncheon provided a unique opportunity to hear some of the priorities for this key agreement from the European Union perspective. We want to thank our guests and the EABC for inviting the German-Australian Chamber to participate. It was an excellent opportunity to get a first-hand insight from a European leader at this milestone moments, also provided additional from the other speakers and the networking between the guests. Overall, it was an outstanding luncheon at the unique location of the New South Wales Parliament.

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