Business Information Session “Australia – EU Free Trade Agreement” and Its Importance for the EU and Croatia
Business Information Session “Australia – EU Free Trade Agreement” was held at the Croatian Chamber of Economy on 9th December, 2019 as part of a session of the Business Council for Economic Cooperation with Australia at the Croatian Chamber of Economy.
Tomislav Radoš, Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Economy for Industry and IT, Energy and Environmental Protection, noted that the EU-Australia trade is about $ 55 billion a year, with the EU being Australia's second largest trading partner and the second largest export market for services. Of the 55 billion mentioned, Croatia has a share of only $ 23.8 million, which is not satisfactory, and the EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement is seen as an additional incentive to the bilateral relations. He emphasized that the interest of Croatian companies in the Australian market is growing, that some of them have already found their place there, and that Australia is known as an open and innovative economy where smaller companies with good products and ideas can find their place.
Marko Marić, President of the Business Council for Economic Cooperation with Australia at the Croatian Chamber of Economy and executive director for Western Europe and the overseas markets of Podravka, explained that the main task of the Council is strengthening the connections and exchange of experiences between the entrepreneurs of the two countries. He pointed out that there are over 200,000 members of Croatian diaspora in Australia who play an important role in economic life there, which can make it easier for Croatian companies to enter the Australian market.
Ambassador of Australia to Croatia Elizabeth Petrovic said that in the three years of her mandate, relations between the two countries have advanced significantly and that the Business Council is a very important part in developing these relations, as a source of information for Croatian entrepreneurs seeking to export to the Australian market and vice versa. She stressed that the aim is to establish a free trade and transparency based trading system that will strengthen both economies and further strengthen trade through this Agreement.
Member of the European Parliament Tomislav Sokol said that this is a very important topic that does not receive the media attention it deserves, although it is of strategic importance to both the EU and Croatia. He stressed that the EU is constantly promoting the importance of the freedom of movement of goods and capital in the single market because it is a guarantee of prosperity, and the European Parliament is constantly advocating for exports, especially for SMEs, of which there are around 25 million in the EU.
Juliana Nam, Trade Counsellor in the Australian Mission to the European Union and NATO, said the agreement would be a major step forward for both sides. She emphasized that Croatia is naturally oriented towards European countries as major trading partners, but it is important to diversify its economy, and one of the ideal destinations for this is precisely the Australian economy, which is in high demand for high quality services and is an opportunity for Croatia.
Ognian Zlatev, Head of the European Commission in Croatia, said the time has come for a new generation of trade agreements to address tariffs and serve economic growth over the next few years, and that it is important that we move closer and thus develop economies and open new workplaces. He stated that we want an agreement that will provide a stable framework for entrepreneurs and take into account consumer protection standards.
Irena Alajbeg, Head of Sector for Trade and Investment Policy in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, said that it was important to emphasize the benefits of free trade in an era of increasing protectionism. She stated that during Croatia's EU presidency, we will continue to advocate for a positive Union trade agenda and open up as many markets as possible, and Australia is certainly one of our important partners in this plan. About 36 million jobs in Europe depend on exports to third countries, and experience has taught us that by signing a free trade agreement, the economy is growing for all signatories. This is important for economies based on small and medium-sized enterprises and highly sophisticated manufacturing seeking a global market, and data show that Croatia has made the best use of the Union's free trade network.
Jason Collins, CEO of the European Australian Business Council based in Sydney, noted that there are numerous challenges to international trade and that free trade agreements are key to developing economic relations. He stressed that the EU-Australia Free Agreement would make it easier for Croatian companies to enter the Australian market, but also open up the opportunity for them to use Australian companies as partners to enter the Asia-Pacific region.
Negotiations on the EU-Australia Free Agreement began in May 2018, with five rounds of talks held so far.