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A new era of cooperation between the European Union and Australia

Image Credit: EU-Australia Leadership Forum (Attribution-NonCommerical-Sharealike: Flickr)

Negotiations for an EU-Australia free trade agreement are building momentum with the signing of the EU-Australia Framework Agreement in August. The long-time coming Agreement marks an important step in the bilateral relations. Is it the beginning of a new era of strategic cooperation between the EU and Australia?

The EU and Australia are committed to work together to tackle challenges in foreign and security policy, sustainable development, climate change, and economic and trade matters. The forthcoming agreement presents many prospects, a significant one being the enhancement of closer links between leaders across government, business and civil society.

Chair of the European Australian Business Council the Hon Nick Greiner AC says the agreement represents an evolution of the relationship. Developing our history of collaboration in research and innovation is one such area. According to the University of Queensland Chancellor and Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Varghese AO FAIIA, the agreement could improve research and industry collaborations and connections.

Moreover, President of the European Policy Centre Herman Van Rompuy advocates for the shared values and common future that an EU-Australia FTA would reinforce. Protectionist threats present significant challenges in an increasingly interdependent world where power and influence lies in the strength of economies. Both the EU and Australia are committed to open trade and economic growth. Similarly, security cooperation on shared threats not limited to geography draws the EU and Australia to work together on closer foreign policy and development strategies in areas including countering terrorism and on cyber security. Beyond trade and investment, an EU-Australia comprehensive FTA would contribute to finding solutions to present and future shared social challenges. In many areas including energy and climate change, manufacturing, defence and security, healthcare, transport, infrastructure, the digital economy and intellectual property, both parties have considerable strategic strengths, which together can contribute to regional and global prosperity.

The EU and Australia’s strong bilateral relationship is particularly favorable to continuing efforts to lead on global climate and disaster risk management policies. Speaking at the EU-Australia Leadership Forum in June, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she sees a role for partnership between Australia and the EU in leading the way on the global treaty on climate change.

The publication on the EU Australia trade relationship, released by the Australian National University Press alongside the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, provides varied and deeply practical insights into this new phase of the bilateral relationship. As forthcoming policy debate on the EU-Australia FTA gains momentum, the publication contributes to highlighting probable points of difficulty and potential gains from the agreement.

Whilst the EU and Australia’s economies share similar elements such as high regulatory standards and comparable intent of qualifications and ways of working, there are also many obstacles, including traditional trade barriers and differences in norms, amongst others.

Making the EU-Australia cooperation truly cutting-edge has just begun.

Elisabeth Perrin is a Diplomacy and Trade postgraduate student at Monash University and Communications and Events Coordinator at Australian Catholic University.

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