“Australia has clearly reaffirmed its commitment to reach its targets under the Paris Agreement and it is our hope that it will also adopt a carbon neutral target.”
The Morrison government has resisted calls for Australia to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, instead only offering to achieve net zero emissions by sometime in the second half of the century.
France has passed laws to go carbon-neutral by 2050. The country relies on nuclear power, but wants nuclear to be 50 per cent or less of the energy mix by 2035.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said last week a 2050 net zero emissions target wouldn’t take much work and was “the stuff of dreams” for a Coalition government.
Mr Lecourtier said Australia’s push for the development of new technologies to drive down carbon emissions could lead to further industrial and research co-operation. That could build on investments by French companies already working here, including energy firms Engie and Neoen.
He said the post COVID-19 reconstruction would create new opportunities for trade with France, including in health, renewable energy, rare earth metals and infrastructure.
“Paris, Sydney and Melbourne are cities with the most ambitious plans in the world for public transport.
“Many Australian companies active on our continent now take the view that they need a physical presence in Europe on top of their London office. France has a lot to offer in this context, given the size of its market, its highly skilled workforce, and its highly attractive foreign investment regime.
“NAB has for instance chosen Paris as its base on the continent, and I am confident that this example will be followed by many here.”
Both Australia and the EU want an agreement finalised as soon as 2021, with virtual negotiations continuing between Canberra and Brussels during COVID-19. Any deal would require approval by the European Parliament.
France already ranks as Australia’s third-largest European customer behind the United Kingdom and Germany, and the fourth largest supplier of goods. About 600 French companies operate in Australia, employing more than 70,000 workers.
Mr Lecourtier described the deal as crucial in helping resist the urges for protectionism around the world.
“The EU and Australia are staunch believers in free trade, multilateralism, and the benefits of a rule-based trade system. Our FTA will reaffirm just that.
“I note that difficult questions that would have been seen as insurmountable obstacles to an agreement years ago, such as agricultural quotas and geographical indications, can now be seriously discussed, with a full comprehension on each side of each other’s imperatives and sensitivities.”
Both sides have highlighted the challenge of greater access to the EU’s 500 million consumers for Australian farm exports, especially beef.
The EU’s recent deal with the South American trade bloc Mercosur – including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – was finalised in July.
Negotiations with Australia were launched in June 2018. The deal would open markets with half a billion people and a GDP of $US18.7 trillion ($25.7 trillion).