Australia prepared to extend EU free trade talks to achieve access

SYDNEY, June 1 (Reuters) – Australia is prepared for free trade talks with the European Union to extend beyond mid-year if it is unable to reach agreement on key issues including the use of geographic names claimed by Europe, such as proseco, its trade minister said.

A free trade agreement with the European Union, a market of 450 million people and gross domestic product of A$24 billion, was a top priority, Trade Minister Don Farrell said, and he will visit Brussels next week to meet EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis.

“I have made it clear that Australia will not sign a deal just for the sake of it,” Farrell said in a speech on Thursday at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Australia needs “new substantial markets and access for our quality products”.

“We will persist, even if it means the negotiations extend beyond mid-year,” he added.

Australia is seeking to diversify export markets for its producers, to reduce reliance on top trading partner China.

Among the sticking points in an EU deal is Europe seeking restrictions on the use of produce names such as proseco, which is claimed by Italy as referring to a geographical region.

Australia has countered that proseco sparkling wine has been made since World War Two by Italian migrants to Australia, giving it cultural significance there also.

“This is not just an economic issue. This is a way in which they maintain links with their mother country,” Farrell said.

The European Union wants Australia to drop a luxury car tax.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham; editing by Robert Birsel

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