Australia’s extensive trade ambitions are front and centre after a day-long diplomacy spree aimed at the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful economies.
He’d previously met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and new Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni for less formal chats, where trade was also on the agenda, following the landmark renewal of in-person leader-to-leader relations with China the previous day.
Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, right, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hold a bilateral meeting. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

Australian diplomats are in the process of tying up or negotiating trade deals of varying levels involving all of those countries.

Chief among them is a free trade agreement with the European Union that both sides want completed by the middle of next year, something Albanese said he reinforced with the string of European leaders.

Negotiations are back on track after a freeze following French President Emmanuel Macron labelling then-prime minister Scott Morrison a liar regarding a $90 billion French submarine contract torn up as a result of the AUKUS agreement.

But major sticking points remain, principally how much access Australia’s powerhouse agriculture sector will get to the more protectionist EU.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese meets with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Wednesday 15th November 2022. Photograph by James Brickwood. (James Brickwood)

European demands for product-labelling rules that could threaten Australian-made prosecco and other products are also a hot topic.

Albanese said he was “very hopeful” they could be resolved.

“I must say that [European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen] and [European Council President Charles Michel] were both very positive about the prospect of success,” he said.

Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attend a session at the G20 Leaders’ Summit. (Willy Kurniawan/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

“These things, though, need to be worked through and they also need to be ratified by each individual country, which is why I’ve sought out, and with all of the European leaders who were here, be they Pedro Sanchez of Spain, Olaf Scholz of Germany, the Italian Prime Minister, the French President.

“With all of them, I also reiterated the importance of the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and Europe.”

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese meets with French president Emmanuel Macron. Wednesday 15th November 2022. Photograph by James Brickwood. (James Brickwood)

In a joint statement on Wednesday, von der Leyen and Michel said the leaders had agreed to prioritise getting a trade deal done that “generates new, commercially meaningful market access opportunities across all goods, services, investment and procurement”.

“We agreed to intensify negotiations on an ambitious trade agreement,” von der Leyen said, on Twitter.

“We will also work on a new partnership on raw materials.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during the plenary session at the G20 Leaders’ Summit. (Willy Kurniawan/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

The EU leaders said there’d been improvements on tariff, services and investment offers in the last round of negotiations, held in October.

They also welcomed Australia’s strong support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia, as well as improvements in its climate change action ambitions.

Newly signed trade agreements with India and the UK were also up for discussion when Albanese met with the countries’ leaders.

The prime minister said he spoke regularly with new UK PM Rishi Sunak as they sat alongside each other throughout the summit but also held a formal sit-down.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, right, takes a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Indonesia President Joko Widodo as they visit a mangrove seeding area as part of the G20 Summit. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara,Pool) (AP)

“We spoke about the Free Trade Agreement, which has been ticked off by the parliamentary committee today, and that we’re hoping to come into force in the first quarter of next year,” he said.

“We also spoke about AUKUS and the importance of those arrangements as well. And it was a very constructive meeting.”

Sunak has been under increasing pressure back home in recent days over his support of the trade deal with Australia, which was signed under former prime minister Boris Johnson, while Sunak’s successor, Liz Truss, was foreign secretary.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese meets with with Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni. (James Brickwood)

Sunak called the trade deal “one-sided” as he was campaigning to replace Johnson over the summit and former environment secretary George Eustice, who helped negotiate the deal, said his side gave away “too much” and it was “not actually a very good deal for the UK”.

But the UK prime minister has this week defended the deal, while pledging to prioritise national benefit over speed with future agreements.

Indian Prime Minister Narendri Modi highlighted trade, education and maritime cooperation after their meeting, while Albanese stressed a focus on Indo-Pacific security.

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement was signed in April, with final arrangements still to be made.

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