(Bloomberg) -- Australia and the United Arab Emirates expect to conclude a free-trade agreement by year’s end, Trade Minister Don Farrell said, while suggesting talks with the European Union and India will remain on hold until after elections.

Farrell is headed to the UAE for discussions on an accord this weekend, in conjunction with the annual World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. The UAE deal is likely to be easier than the fraught negotiations with the EU, Farrell said in an interview ahead of his departure.

“The difficulty in the agriculture sector that presented itself with the EU, that won’t be an issue here,” he said. “There is optimism on both sides.”

The UAE is Australia’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, with two-way goods and services worth A$9.3 billion ($6.1 billion) in 2022. Australia is also looking to smooth the path for investment by the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund, particularly in the nation’s renewable energy sector. 

Read more: UAE Bucks Global Slump as Non-Oil Trade Nears $1 Trillion

Farrell said he is hopeful that any free-trade deal with the UAE will lead to greater access for Australia across the Middle East. Canberra is also currently negotiating FTAs with the EU and India, but with both deals facing difficulties over agricultural imports, they’re on hold until elections are out of the way.

During his visit to the UAE, Farrell will work with international counterparts to overhaul the WTO, including its dispute settlement system. The mechanism has been out of action since a decision by former President Donald Trump’s administration to block appointments to the WTO’s appellate court.

Farrell said WTO reform has always proved “difficult,” but added that Australia had benefited greatly from the dispute settlement system during its recent problems with China. The minister said the potential for a second Trump administration wouldn’t change his approach to the reforms.

“It’s not dependent on who might or might not be the president of the United States at any one time,” he said. “We want this reform because its good for our national interests.”

Australia took China to the WTO over the tariffs that Beijing imposed on wine and barley following a diplomatic dispute in 2020. However, warming ties since the election of the center-left Labor government in May 2022 have resulted in the barley tariffs being lifted. 

Read more: Australia’s Barley Sales to China Boom as Wine Decision Pending

Canberra is now waiting for the results of a review by the Chinese government into barriers to wine sales.

Farrell said he is hopeful the wine tariffs will be resolved in the “next few weeks.” Despite recent tensions between Australia and China over the suspended death sentence for writer Yang Hengjun, Farrell said he was still expecting a positive result from the five-month review.

It’s due to report by the end of March. Farrell said he will meet with his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao while in the UAE.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.