Australia and the EU: Partners in the New Trade Agenda

The chapters in this book provide detailed analyses of several aspects of the new trade agenda, and the role of Australia and the European Union (EU) in promoting it. The different context of the two entities in part determines their roles: the EU with its important influence in the Northern Hemisphere; and Australia with its focus on trade liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific region—the fastest growing region of the global economy.

Essentially, as the introduction and several chapters demonstrate, the new trade agenda is about the increasing integration of national and regional economies around the world. It is characterised by the shift away from tariffs and quotas as a major obstacle to global trade flows towards behind-the-border non-tariff barriers (NTBs). The exception here is in sectors such as agriculture, where the maintenance of domestic support in the form of governmental subsidies of one kind or another mandate the continuation of high levels of border protection.

Both Australia and the EU, therefore, are now set on a trade policy course with two objectives:

1. To conclude bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with key trading partners that focus increasingly on liberalising NTBs that currently go beyond the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), while continuing to work actively in Geneva for a successful outcome to the WTO’s Doha multilateral trade negotiations; and

2. To ensure that these ‘new generation’ or ‘WTO-plus’ FTAs will be a ‘stepping stone’ and not a ‘stumbling block’ (European Union 2006a: 8) to better WTO rules and more effective multilateral trade liberalisation into the future.

How could a new generation FTA between Australia and the EU advance these objectives? What progress towards these objectives has been achieved in the new-generation FTAs already negotiated by both Australia and the EU? This concluding chapter offers some tentative answers to both questions.

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