A group of MEPs from the European Parliament’s trade committee is traveling to Australia and New Zealand for a four-day trip as the EU tries to seal a deal with Canberra — and just concluded one with Wellington. Who’s going? Committee chair Bernd Lange and Pedro Silva Pereira are representing the Socialists & Democrats, while Jörgen Warborn and Seán Kelly are going for the European People’s Party. Karin Karlsbro is going for Renew Europe; Sara Matthieu for the Greens; Danilo Oscar Lancini is there for the far-right Identity and Democracy group; Jan Zahradil from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group; and Helmut Scholz is there for The Left.

What will be the focus? Lange said in a statement the focus will be on trade and sustainability, as the European Parliament wants the new trade and sustainability commitments in the EU-New Zealand deal reflected in the Australian deal as well. Lange also stressed the importance of “strengthening ties with like-minded partners.” Christmas present? Lange told Morning Trade he hopes the EU and Australia will be able to seal a trade deal by the end of the year. That’ll mean overcoming some stumbling blocks like agricultural provisions, but that shouldn’t be impossible, Lange said. Let’s hope they won’t strike a deal the day before New Year’s Eve (like they did with China).

But don’t worry: There’s already another negotiation round scheduled for February after the next one in October — which suggests reaching a deal before then seems unlikely, especially given the talks are still facing an uphill battle. [...]

There is always an energy angle: Lange also said Australia could help Europe’s green transition by providing green hydrogen, an element that Brussels is likely to take into account ahead of the talks with Australia. An agreement on that could be incorporated in the general trade deal, he said — and lead to Canberra sending Europe green hydrogen “on a large scale,” he told Morning Trade, without further specifying numbers or details.