Working towards an Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement

21 December 2017

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, The Hon Steven Ciobo MP

Australia and the European Union are continuing to work towards the commencement of free trade agreement negotiations. Australia has been trading with member countries of the EU for more than 200 years and the time has come for our two sophisticated markets to set out the rules for trade in the twenty first century.

An FTA with the EU, and access to its 510 million consumers, would deliver enormous benefits for Australian businesses, create new and valuable export opportunities, promote more productive two-way investment, and remove some non-tariff barriers for traders.

In 2016, the EU’s stock of foreign direct investment in Australia was valued at $164.8 billion, and Australian foreign direct investment in the EU was worth $104.9 billion.

Additionally, European companies like German supermarket chain Aldi, Italian chocolate manufacturer Ferrero, and French electrical and systems multinational Thales, through Thales Australia, have already created thousands of jobs for Australians.

Europe may be more than 14,000 kilometres away, but technological and transport advancements mean people and goods are now less than a day’s flight from each other and some services can be delivered instantaneously.

As Australia has pursued FTAs with our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific including China, Japan and Korea, so too we must pursue favourable trade deals with our long-standing trading partners in Europe. When considered as a single market, the EU is our second largest trading partner behind China and our third largest export market. Australian services exports to the EU were valued at $10.5 billion in 2016; travel and business services were our major exports. Services are an important part of our trade with the EU, and an FTA will help maximise growth in this promising sector.

EU majority-owned enterprises in Australia employ nearly 300,000 people, and attracting increased investment to Australia will help create more local jobs, particularly as European businesses look to us as a gateway to Asia. On the other side, Australian companies like Rio Tinto, Lendlease and Cochlear have done the same as they expand in Europe and grow their brands. An FTA will assist investors on both sides to operate with greater ease and certainty in each other’s markets.

To this end, Australia and the EU have been working toward commencement of negotiations on a comprehensive FTA since late 2015, which we expect to occur this year. As part of this work, I have recently had several constructive discussions with EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

Since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk announced the decision to work towards an Australia-EU FTA, we have successfully concluded a joint FTA scoping exercise. The agreed scoping paper sets out the range and ambition of a future agreement; a critical step toward commencing formal negotiations.

As part of this process, the Australian Government has engaged widely with stakeholders, and will continue to seek input from industry and the community, as we move into the negotiation phase.

Negotiations on the FTA will undoubtedly be complex, in order to secure an agreement that is comprehensive, liberalising and ambitious. As two partners who have so much in common, I remain confident this can be achieved.

We welcome public submissions on an Australia-EU FTA.

Submissions can be emailed to a-eufta@dfat.gov.au

Last Updated: 21 December 2017