Drum’s EU delegation

By James Bennett

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum says the Goulburn Valley will be impacted by a potential free trade agreement with the European Union.

Mr Drum recently travelled to Brussels with fellow members of an Australian delegation to the European Union.

He said climate change, Brexit, trade and immigration were all discussed with him and fellow MPs including Liberal Member for Menzies Kevin Andrews, Labor Member for Lalor Joanne Ryan and One Nation Queensland senator Pauline Hanson.

During discussions with EU members Mr Drum said they raised concerns about Australia's role in securing a trade deal with Britain.

He said the EU was currently Australia's second biggest trading partner; after Brexit it would be third while Britain would be tenth.

“They were concerned that Australia wasn't in the process of doing a sweetheart deal with Britain yet, that's because we haven't even effectively started negotiations with Britain because they're still part of the EU.”

Mr Drum said at least 30 negotiators for the EU would travel to Canberra later this month to open the fifth round of trade negations between Australia and the EU.

He said one of the big "sticking points" coming out of Europe were geographical indicators.

“The best example of a geographical indicator (is) Australia doing a deal with the EU to stop using the term champagne unless it comes from that specific region of France,” he said.

“Into the future they want us to stop using terms such as parmesan, feta, and there's 107 of these that various jurisdictions around Europe want us to stop using.

“You could be a very high quality feta-producing farmer and this might have a significant impact.

“We had to portray a very strong message and that is, anything that we give up, what are you going to give us back in return?

“We're not going over there to have our pants pulled down by some negotiators who want this and want that, and don't want us to do various things.”

Mr Drum said the potential free trade agreement would affect commodities in the Goulburn Valley.

He said it was important Australia reached a level playing field with the EU for it to be effective.

“If you take Holland and Spain, that are already producing a lot of apples (for instance), they will be saying we don't want Australian apples. They'll be putting up barriers to accept certain commodities.

“We'll be saying, 'well you're not going to sell your cars into our country'.

“We're a high value market for many of these countries, even though we're a small

country in terms of numbers.

“But the message that I've being told very, very clearly and we know around this area, is the Goulburn Valley farmers are quite adaptable.

“Many will (be) pulling some pear trees out right now, and planting some other fruit, just simply because of its economies and efficiencies.

“So that will also act in a similar way. If we're able to get other trade deals done with other countries, not just Europe.”

Mr Drum said the free trade agreement wouldn't be finalised for at least another eight to 10 months.

Mr Drum said the delegation also travelled to Greece, where immigration was a hot topic of discussion.

He said Greece had recently been added to the Working Holiday Visa program, which had the potential to bring more workers to the Goulburn Valley.

“They were very excited and positive about that. The opportunity for so many

of the younger people to come over here to work to have that three-year opportunity.

“They were keen to tell us that over the last three to four years there has been a very strong brain drain from the younger people. Because the economic outlook in Greece is quite poor.

“Many of them have been getting themselves educated and taking off towards France and Germany.

“It was great that they were able to talk positively about the fact that the younger

people were coming out here.

“I was able to convey to them many of those young Greek workers are coming here (to the GV), for instance, to pick fruit, will be working for Greek families.

“The other members of the delegation, all had the same story.

“I told them that I grew up on a farm next door to Lemnos; they actually couldn't

understand because Lemnos is an island of Greece,” he said with a laugh.