Australia targets EU trade deal in first half of 2023 - minister

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Australia is pushing to seal a free trade agreement with EU authorities in the first half of 2023, its trade minister said on Wednesday.

The European Union and Australia opened free trade negotiations in 2018 and have held 13 rounds of talks. But a deal has been held up by EU concerns over Australia's climate change commitments and a bust-up over Canberra's cancellationof a submarine contract with France last year.

"We are very keen to reach agreement in a timely fashion. We're looking at the first half of next year," Australian minister Don Farrell told reporters.

Farrell, who is on a two-week trip to Europe, pointed to climate commitment pledges by Anthony Albanese, who became Australia's prime minister in May, and said he got a "very positive vibe" from his French counterpart in a meeting on Tuesday.

Farrell said both parties needed a deal.

Australia has suffered trade blockages by China on its wine, barley and other products, showing that it had been wrong to rely so heavily on Beijing.

"I think that same realisation has taken place in Europe, that there are risks of just putting all your eggs in one basket. You've got to have a diversified source of product and sale," he said.

Australia has ample supplies of lithium and cobalt, key elements for batteries used in electric vehicles, along with titanium, palladium and rare earth elements.

There are still issues to overcome to seal a deal that Farrell said needed to be "meaningful".

Australia is eager to export more beef, sugar, dairy and other agricultural products, which has met resistance from France and Ireland.

The EU is keen for Australia to cut its luxury car tax. Farrell said the government could ill afford to forego the A$800 million ($540 million) that that brings in per year.

The EU also wants food and drinks names such as feta or prosecco to be reserved for products made in Europe, but Australian producers oppose this.

($1 = 1.4874 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)