Since the trade negotiations kicked off in July 2018, negotiators have met face-to-face in both Brussels and Canberra to advance the comprehensive trade agreement. Due to COVID19 travel restrictions, the latest round took place online for the very first time.
The EU's chief negotiator Helena König said continuity and momentum is vital. “The European Union and Australia are working together to remove barriers to trade and ensure safe and rules-based trade, which is needed more than ever in the current situation. Despite the travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus emergency, we will be able to progress with the 7th round of negotiations, as scheduled.”
However, it wasn't quite business as usual. Working to the European and Australian time zones, the latest round took place over two weeks (4-15 May) instead of one. The round covered most areas of the future agreement including technical barriers to trade, sustainable development, goods, services, geographical indications and rules of origin.
In a slightly reduced format due to the virtual organisation of the round, 23 working groups and sub-groups met covering most of the areas of the future agreement. The constructive discussions allowed progress in a number of areas such as dispute settlement, customs and trade facilitation, competition, services and investment. The discussions also confirmed a shared commitment to rules-based trade as well as to helping both economies recover from the global pandemic.
Read more in the DG Trade report on the 7th round of negotiations here.