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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Export EU: A guide to the European Union for Australian Business

Executive Summary

The European Union is one of the largest economies in the world along with the United States, with a GDP of US$11 trillion in 2003.  Australia and the member states of the EU have a long trading history and, taken as a single entity, the EU is Australia’s largest trading partner and source of foreign investment.  Australia has run a historical trade deficit with the EU.  However, Australian merchandise exports to the EU have increased steadily in recent years and services trade has also grown strongly.  Following enlargement in May 2004 from 15 to 25 members and further market integration, the EU will continue to be a very important market for Australian exporters.  EU membership is set to increase in the future.

The single market enables goods to move freely throughout the EU.  Australia enjoys good access to the EU market, with the exception of agriculture.  The EU and Australia have differences on some trade policy issues but our trading relationship is healthy.

The EU is the world's largest exporter and plays a significant role in the international trade arena, including in the World Trade Organization (WTO).  It has also been active in pursuing bilateral and regional free trade agreements to achieve its economic and political objectives. 

On 1 May 2004, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia joined the existing 15 EU member states.  Romania and Bulgaria are aiming to join by 2007.  Negotiations for Turkey and Croatia’s accession are to begin in 2005.  Expanded membership has resulted in enormous growth in the population and area of the EU.  Central European markets have become increasingly attractive as the benefits of joining the EU flow through to their economies.  Some Australian companies are already active in these markets.

The euro has so far been adopted by 12 EU member states, forming the ‘euro area’ and the new members will be seeking to adopt the euro in the near future.  For Australians doing business in the EU, the euro reduces cross-border transaction costs, impacts on pricing strategies, and creates a deeper and more liquid financial market.

The EU presents an excellent range of opportunities for Australian companies.  Section One of this publication outlines these opportunities and provides information for potential exporters on the EU and its institutions.  All dollar amounts are in Australian Dollars (A$) unless otherwise specified.

The A-Z in Section Two of this publication includes a list of terms that business may encounter when dealing with the EU.  It also contains a number of case studies from firms already doing business in this market. 

Links to economic fact sheets for 29 countries, in Section Three, provide a statistical profile of EU and potential EU member states.  Appendices include a comprehensive list of commonly used acronyms and abbreviations, a detailed list of contacts, both here and overseas, and a further reading section.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade