On 22 May 2018, the European Commission announced that it welcomed the adoption by the Council of the negotiating directives for free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand. The preparations – which included an impact assessment for both agreements – are now complete and formal negotiations can begin. The announcement stated:
Australia and New Zealand are important allies and these agreements will offer significant economic gains by getting rid of obstacles and boosting trade further. Despite the distance, trade between the EU and these two countries is already roughly the same as with Mexico or Canada.
Having trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand would provide EU businesses with a valuable entry point into the wider Asia-Pacific region. They will also put European companies on an equal footing with those from the other countries in the area that have signed up to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or that already enjoy better access to Australia and New Zealand through other preferential trade agreements.
Commissioner Malmström will travel to Australia and New Zealand in June to open negotiations at the political level. The first negotiation rounds between the teams of negotiators are then envisaged to take place in Brussels in July.