Australia and EU agree on scope of future free trade deal

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An agreement over the prospective scope of a future free trade deal between the EU and Australia has been reached.

Trade representatives from the EU and Australia have come to an agreement over the scope of a potential new free trade deal.

EU commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmstrom and Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo have officially signed off on the terms of a recent scoping exercise, which will determine the goals and ambitions of any free trade agreement (FTA).

With this step complete, the European Commission will now ask its member states for the authority to launch formal negotiations, as well as clarifying specific negotiating directives.

Mr Ciobo said: "An Australia-EU FTA has the potential to drive economic growth by opening up new export opportunities, enhancing investment flows and removing trade barriers for businesses."

This scoping process was initially expected last year, but encountered delays due to recent resistance to trade deals within the EU bloc.

However, it is expected that any future FTA between the EU and Australia will deliver widespread benefits. At present, the EU is Australia's third-largest trading partner, though this includes the UK, which is likely to have left the union by the time this deal takes effect.