The European Union and Australia enjoy a strong, dynamic, and continuously evolving partnership. The relationship is currently based on the 2008 European Union-Australia Partnership Framework, a comprehensive statement of shared values and close historical, political, economic and cultural ties. As our relationship evolved, the EU and Australia have moved to upgrade bilateral ties. To this end, in 2017 the EU, its Member States and Australia signed the EU Australia Framework Agreement. 

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    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini signing the Framework Agreement in 2017.
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    Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini signing the Framework Agreement in 2017.

    Copyright: European Union 2017 

Political Relations

Framework Agreement

The European Union and Australia have enjoyed a solid partnership since the 1960s.  In 2017 the EU, its Member States and Australia signed the EU Australia Framework Agreement. This Agreement (currently under provisional application) builds on existing cooperation to enable the further expansion of relations  

A number of mechanisms already in place show the depth and practical focus of the relationship, for example: 

  • The 1994 Agreement  Relating to Scientific and Technical Cooperation between the European Community and Australia (entered into force on 25 July 1994).  
  • The 2008 Agreement between the European Community and Australia on Trade in Wine (entered into force on 1 September 2010). 
  • The 2012 Agreement between the European Union and Australia on the processing and transfer of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data by air carriers to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service  (entered into force on 1 June 2012).

The European and Australian Parliaments engage in ongoing and productive cooperation.

Economic relations

Negotiating an EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement

The EU is Australia's third-largest trading partner, accounting for AUD 60.9 billion (8.7%) of Australia's total goods trade. 15.8% of Australian goods imports, worth AUD 48.7 billion, were from the EU (second after China), while 3.1% of Australia's goods exports, worth AUD 12.2 billion, were destined for the EU; making it Australia’s eighth-biggest customer for goods. 

The EU is Australia's second-largest services trading partner (after the USA), with AUD 21.5 billion worth of two-way services traded in 2018 (11.3% of Australia’s total).  

In 2019, the EU was the third-biggest investor in Australia, with a total investment worth AUD 684 billion, or 18% of Australia's total. 

In November 2015, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, together with European Council President Donald Tusk and the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to initiate the process of launching Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. The negotiations were formally launched by European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Prime Minister Turnbull and Trade Minister Ciobo in June 2018 in Canberra, and are ongoing.

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    From left, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström launch the Free Trade Agreement negotiations in June 2018.
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    From left, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström launch the Free Trade Agreement negotiations in June 2018.

    Copyright: European Union 2018

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    EU operations such as EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta, which reduced piracy off Somalia, helped secure maritime access to Europe for Indo-Pacific nations, including Australia.
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    EU operations such as EUNAVFOR Operation Atalanta, which reduced piracy off Somalia, helped secure maritime access to Europe for Indo-Pacific nations, including Australia.

    Copyright: European Communities 2009 

Foreign and Security Policy

Focus on the Indo-Pacific region

The EU and Australia are likeminded partners on the international stage and work together to find solutions to global challenges, both bilaterally and multilaterally.  Strategic cooperation is ongoing in areas such as counter-terrorism, migration and asylum, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, prevention and fight against organised crime, development and humanitarian aid, promotion and defence of human rights as well as supporting the rules-based international system.  

Regular consultations underpin this cooperation, together with other forms of concrete collaboration. Australia has contributed to EUCAP NESTOR, an EU-led maritime capacity building mission in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean, and the EU Advisory Mission in support of Security Sector Reform in Iraq (EUAM Iraq). A specific bilateral agreement on cooperation in crisis management enables Australia and the EU to agree on such Australian participation in EU-led crisis management missions around the world.

Environment, climate and energy

Promoting sustainable development

The EU has a comprehensive system of environmental protection and, as one of the key brokers of the Paris agreement (COP21) in December 2015, is a leader in global efforts to tackle climate change. The EU sets stringent environmental standards and ambitious climate action goals, having achieved its binding greenhouse gases emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for 2020. New 2030 targets have been agreed by EU legislators and are underpinned by robust measures: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels; to ensure at least 32% of final energy consumption comes from renewable sources, and to improve energy efficiency by 32.5%. The new European Green Deal proposes further measures on climate, circular economy, biodiversity and other goals. The proposals would see the EU become carbon neutral by 2050. 

The EU and Australia cooperate across a wide variety of multilateral environmental agreements and hold high-level dialogues dedicated to environmental issues, including climate change. The EU and Australia continue to work together on global issues such as combating illegal logging and addressing the scourge of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing. 

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    The EU is urging all nations to join it in setting ambitious climate targets, including net-zero emissions by 2050.
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    The EU is urging all nations to join it in setting ambitious climate targets, including net-zero emissions by 2050.

    Copyright: European Union 

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    The EU provides Australian students and staff with a range of supported and generous options to go to Europe. 
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    The EU provides Australian students and staff with a range of supported and generous options to go to Europe. 

    Copyright: European Union 

Research, innovation and education

Underpinning smart and sustainable growth

The EU and Australia recognise research, science and innovation create jobs and investment – and can support pandemic response, and post-pandemic recovery.  

Australian universities, companies and researchers are involved in the EU's Horizon programmes. The EU's budget allocation to research, science and innovation is €95.5 billion over the period 2021-2027. It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU's competitiveness and growth. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, for example, provide grants to researchers at any stage of their career and encourage transnational, inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary mobility. Since 2007, more than 600 Australian researchers have taken part.  

The European Research Council, set up by the EU in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research with more than 48 Australian researchers receiving grants to pursue their research in Europe. From 2019, Synergy grants allow Australian researchers, who are part of an EU-based team, to conduct their research in Australia. 

Erasmus+ will continue as the EU's programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2021-2027. Erasmus+ funding of over €26.2 billion will support various projects for institutions and scholarships for individuals worldwide including Australia.