The Australian agriculture minister, Warren Truss, welcomed a breakthrough this week in deadlocked negotiations between Australian and European Commission officials regarding proposed changes to the EU/Australian Wine Agreement. Truss said he now believes a revised agreement can be completed during the first half of 2003.

A number of issues related to the 1994 Wine Agreement, which Truss said provided important benefits to Australian wine producers, have been in dispute for some years.

"These include streamlined import certification procedures for Australian wine entering the EU, approval to use a number of oenological practices not permitted for EU producers and arrangements to protect Australian geographical wine indications," Truss said.

"I am particularly pleased that negotiations on this important agreement, which appeared to have stalled, are now back on track. This can be attributed to the positive approach brought to the talks by both sides and a real willingness to find solutions for several long-standing and difficult issues. I am hopeful that a revised Wine Agreement can be concluded in the first half of 2003."