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EU seeks Australia, New Zealand trade deals by 2019 - Juncker

Reuters logo Reuters 13/09/2017

European Commission President Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg © REUTERS/Christian Hartmann European Commission President Juncker addresses the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg The European Union wants to launch free trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand and conclude deals with both in the next two years, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday.

The head of the EU executive said that, over the last year, partners across the globe had lined up at Europe's door to conclude trade agreements, which observers say is largely a reaction to a more protectionist United States under President Donald Trump.

Juncker said there were "good chances" that the EU would agree the main elements of a new free trade with the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and of an updated trade partnership with Mexico by the end of this year.

"And today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand," Juncker told EU lawmakers.

"I want all of these agreements to be finalised by the end of this mandate. And I want them negotiated in the fullest transparency," he added.

The European Commission's term of office runs until October 31, 2019.

Juncker said that Europe favoured open commerce, but needed reciprocity from its trading partners.

"We have to get what we give," he said.

The European Union was not a group of "naive free traders" and would always defend its strategic interests.

The European Commission is now proposing that it should have the right to review foreign investment in important assets.

"If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate," Juncker said.

Juncker did not mention any country, but most EU concern over reciprocity and investment has centred on China.

China's COSCO Shipping [COSCO.UL] already owns a majority stake in Greece's biggest port, Piraeus, and a share of a terminal at Europe's largest port, Rotterdam. China contributed to the European Union's Galileo satellite navigation programme, which critics say led to a massive transfer of technology.

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