Hannu Takkula, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, first of all, I am
very pleased that both these oral questions to the Commission and the resolutions of the
Committee on International Trade (INTA) on the opening of the free trade negotiations
with Australia and New Zealand are included together in this debate.
The EU has actually been negotiating free trade agreements with many third countries for
many years, creating stable economic relations which make economic growth possible
and leave us less vulnerable in cases of instability. But we are still lagging behind in this
field. The EU is the only big trading bloc which has not negotiated an FTA with one of
the most important global economies, Australia. This is all the more surprising as the EU
has long traditions with both Australia and New Zealand, cooperating closely in many
fields, and we share the same fundamental values. Moreover, we should not be left behind
and out of the circle which is starting to build up around Australia, New Zealand, Asia
and North America. By deepening and strengthening cooperation and good relations with
these countries, we could set international standards and promote fair and sustainable
values for trade.
So I have to ask the following question: why has the EU not yet started negotiations with
Australia and New Zealand? Both the EU and Australia and New Zealand have clearly
stated that we are willing to start this procedure, and I am strongly convinced that all of
these countries would benefit from this agreement. As has been the case with all the other
FTA negotiations, we would have the power to negotiate the substance of the FTA. I
strongly urge the Commission to start preparing the scoping exercise very soon and fully
commit to taking the next step towards negotiating a mutually beneficial FTA with
Australia and New Zealand.