European Union External Action

Australia and the EU

The European Union and Australia enjoy a strong and dynamic partnership. Formally, the relationship is currently based on the 2008 European Union - Australia Partnership Framework [623 KB]. The Partnership Framework is a comprehensive statement of our shared values and close historical, political, economic and cultural ties. As our relationship has evolved  a new and legally binding Agreement has been negotiated. The EU / Australia Framework Agreement was agreed in April 2015 by the EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.  It will be signed in 2016.

The new EU / Australia Framework Agreement will build on existing strong foundations to strengthen the partnership between the EU and Australia and provides a framework to facilitate and promote cooperation across a broad range of areas of mutual interest – such as:

  • Foreign Policy & Security (including counter terrorism)
  • International Trade
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Development and Humanitarian Aid
  • Migration & Asylum
  • Research & Innovation
  • Environment and Climate Change
  • Education & Culture
  • Energy & Transport

In November 2015 Prime Minister Turnbull agreed with President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker to further 'deepen the EU-Australia relationship which is rooted in our common interests values and heritage'. In their Statement they welcomed the finalisation of the EU / Australia Framework Agreement and agreed to start the process towards the launch of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement. They also announced the establishment of an EU-Australia Leadership Forum as a unique platform for European and Australian political, business, media and civil society leaders to nurture the future of the relationship.

The EU and Australia are likeminded partners on the international stage and – as FM Bishop and EU High Representative Mogherini put it in their joint Statement in April 2015 - 'We are committed to promoting prosperity and security in both our regions and we share the same values in respect of democracy, human rights and a rules-based international system'. The EU and Australia aim to work together to help meet global challenges such as climate change, migration,  energy security and sustainable growth.

The EU and Australia support their cooperation through a series of formal dialogues (currently there are 20) including, inter alia,  Security, Counter Terrorism, Pacific issues, Trade Policy, Migration & Asylum, Environment, Customs, Human Rights, Development.

The EU and Australia have also signed several sectoral agreements, including:

The EU and Australia work together on foreign and security policy issues, both bilaterally and multilaterally.  Cooperation is strong in the Asia Pacific region, in the Middle East and – more recently – Eastern Europe.  In depth cooperation is on-going in areas such as counter-terrorism, migration and asylum seekers, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organised crime prevention, development and humanitarian aid.  The EU and Australia have ratified a dedicated bilateral agreement on cooperation in crisis management and Australia contributed for the first time in 2014/2015 to an EU led crisis management mission – EUCAP NESTOR, a maritime capacity building mission in the Horn of Africa. 

The EU and Australia have finalised a Framework Agreement which will provide a strong basis for the expansion of our relations across, inter alia, foreign and security policy and development.

The EU and Australia conduct regular ministerial consultations and a number of formalised dialogues between senior officials dedicated to Foreign and Security Policy issues, such as the annual security dialogue at the level of Political Directors. In 2014 the EU and Australia established formal dialogue on Counter-Terrorism and in 2015 staff to staff talks were established between the Australian and European Security and Defence structures. The EU works closely with Australia to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law world-wide.

With just 7 % of the world’s population, the European Union (EU) accounts for 25.8 % of world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and its trade with the rest of the world accounts for around 20 % of global exports and imports (excluding trade with the EU).

The EU’s trade policy safeguards growth and jobs in Europe, with the European Commission alongside EU countries and business, ensuring that negotiated trade deals result in market access for EU exporters.

Globally the EU has over 200 Free Trade Agreements in place, covering more than 35 % of global trade.

The EU and Australia share a strong economic relationship, with the EU being Australia's second-largest trading partner after China, and its most significant trading partner in services.

The EU views Australia as an important trade and investment partner, being Australia's second-largest trading partner after China, and second-largest foreign direct investment (FDI) partner after the United States.

The EU is Australia's third largest trading partner. Annual bilateral trade amounts to more than €45.5 billion, with a positive trade balance of more than €19 billion on the EU side. EU exports to Australia include mostly vehicles and machinery but it also registers a trade surplus as far as agri-food sector is concerned.

EU companies supply commercial services worth nearly €20 billion to Australia and hold investment in the country worth more than €145 billion.

Traditionally, Australia's merchandise exports to the EU are dominated by mineral commodities and agricultural products while EU's exports to Australia are predominantly manufactured goods.

In 2015, Australia was the EU’s leading supplier of oilseeds, zinc ores, unwrought lead and wool.

The EU is Australia's leading trading partner in services, while Australia is the EU's 10th largest trading partner in services. Services represents more than one-third of bilateral trade.

The EU is Australia's second-largest investor after the United States, with foreign direct investment (FDI) stock totalling €105.7 billion in 2015 (representing over 20 per cent of Australia's inward FDI).  Conversely, Australia is the 9th largest source of FDI stock in the EU, valued at €22.4 billion (the EU being the leading destination for Australian FDI).

In 2017 discussions on the scope of a potential bilateral free trade agreement were concluded.  Preliminary discussions, conducted over the past year between the EU and Australia, aimed to define areas to be covered as well as the level of ambition for a future agreement.

The European Commission is currently conducting its assessment of the potential impact that such a trade deal could have for the EU. The study takes into account the agreed scope, new opportunities the agreement could create for EU businesses, as well as sensitivities in the farming sector.

The EU and its Member States are the largest donor of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) globally making up over 50 % all contributions. The European Consensus on Development is a policy statement made by the 3 main EU institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council), that commits the EU to eradicating poverty and building a fairer and more stable world. It identifies shared values, goals, principles and commitments which guide the Commission and EU governments in their pursuit of sustainable development.

The EU is currently the second-largest donor in the Pacific region after Australia and so effective cooperation in the region, as outlined in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action, is vital to achieving development gains. Indeed within its Partnership Framework with the EU, Australia cited collaboration on common aid implementation plans as well as the exchange of information on human rights in Asia and the Pacific, as amongst its long/medium-term objectives.

Towards this, Australia and the EU commit to implement the Cairns Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination in the Pacific and make aid to the region more effective by reducing uncoordinated efforts and too much bureaucracy while increasing the use of country partner systems, pooled funding arrangements and delegated aid.

The EU has established a comprehensive system of environmental protection, and as one of the key brokers of the Paris agreement (COP21) in December 2015, it is a leader in global efforts to tackle climate change. It addresses concerns through broad-based, targeted policies and activities ranging from the world's largest and most comprehensive emissions trading scheme to energy efficiency labelling for appliances. It also continues to set stringent environmental standards and ambitious climate action goals, already having achieved its binding greenhouse gases emissions reduction and renewable energy targets for 2020 while working on  agreeing legislation to deliver on its ambitious target for 2030 of reducing emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 .

The EU and Australia cooperate across a wide variety of international environmental agreements and hold high level dialogues dedicated to specific environmental issues. An important area where Australia and the EU have been working together is in combating the practice of illegal logging and whaling. 

Australia and the EU recognise the importance of research, innovation to success in creating the jobs and investment that underpin inclusive as well as smart and sustainable growth. In fact, in 1994, the EU and Australia signed the first science and technology Agreement between the EU and a non-EU country. And the impact of Australian and European research and innovation is felt globally.

Europe makes significant investments through its Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation – over the period 2014-2017 there will be close to €77 (A$115) billion invested into fundamental research, innovation, and providing support to bring new ideas to market through small-medium enterprises, public-private partnerships, and research infrastructures, as well as connecting with Australian scientists through researcher mobility programs (see 'Education' below).

Today, Europe – which has 10 per cent of the world’s population and more than one in five of the world’s researchers, invests one in five of the world’s R&D dollars and produces one in three of the world’s scientific papers. EU investments in science and innovation establish a productive basis for networks, cooperation and partnerships between EU scientists and scientists from around the world, including Australia.

Europe has eight of the top ten nations in the Global Innovation Index – and there is close bilateral cooperation between the EU, its Member States and Australia. There are close to 30,000 publications involving EU and Australian authors each year – probing the limits of human knowledge, expanding and developing our understanding of the universe and Earth on which we live.

The Horizon 2020 Framework Program is organised to support Excellent Science; Industrial Leadership; and Societal Challenges. If you are an Australian researcher or company and want to learn more please visit: Horizon 2020 – the opportunities for Australian researchers.

General information about Horizon 2020 is available at:

The Horizon 2020 Framework Program for Research and Innovation through its Erasmus and Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions recognises the fundamental importance of providing ongoing vocational education and training opportunities; and connecting early, mid-career, and established researchers. 

Erasmus+ is the European Union Programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020. It offers a range of opportunities for higher education students, doctoral candidates, staff and institutions from around the world.

Australians are eligible for Erasmus+: International Dimension in in Higher Education, Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees and Jean Monnet Activities.

Information on Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions - Research Fellowship Programme and latest jobs and traineeship opportunities.

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