Crucial month ahead on several fronts for EU trade negotiations
Talks open with Australia and New Zealand, plus new offer tabled by Mercosur bloc
June is shaping up to be a dramatic month for EU trade relations.
Talks with Australia and New Zealand kick off, with food and agriculture a top priority; another chapter opens in the decades-long Mercosur saga; and US President Trump's steel tariffs loom as an Obama-era hormone beef row rumbles on.
Antipodean wheeling and dealing will begin with a trip by EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström (below) to Canberra and Wellington in June, after she got the go-ahead from the bloc's trade ministers last week to launch talks. The first formal negotiations take place in Brussels in July.
"We are already close in terms of shared values and our open, global outlook," Ms Malmström said. "Starting these talks between like-minded partners sends a strong signal at a time where many are taking the easy road of protectionism."
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said last week his first priority would be "to secure better access for Australian food and agriculture products".
Both Australia and New Zealand are keen to see improved access for dairy, beef and sheep meat, while New Zealand has long found it difficult to gain improved access for sparkling wine and fruit and vegetables.
A Commission impact study says the deal would increase EU exports to New Zealand and Australia by about a third in the long term. But it also warns that increased imports from the two countries "may negatively affect the standard of living and traditional lifestyle of small farmers in the EU".
"Adverse impacts on rural employment in the EU are possible - both skilled and unskilled agricultural labour may face adverse consequences," the study says.