A free trade agreement with the European Union is one step closer with the conclusion of a year-long joint scoping exercise.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo completed the process late last week.
“This is a key step toward the launch of negotiations,” said Mr Ciobo.
“Both sides will now work through their domestic processes to secure approval of a negotiating mandate.”
Mr Ciobo said an Australia-EU FTA has the potential to drive economic growth by opening up new export opportunities, enhancing investment flows, and removing trade barriers for businesses.
“Collectively the EU is Australia’s second-largest trading partner and largest source of foreign investment,” he said.
Strong economic relationship
“In 2015-16, two-way trade was worth $95.6 billion and total investment stock from the EU was almost $1 trillion. Our trade with the EU accounts for about 15 per cent of our global trade.
“Together with the EU, the Government is confident our two open, liberal economies can agree to strengthen our economic relationship to the mutual benefit of our businesses and local communities.”
Dr Malmström is looking forward to receiving a mandate from Member States so that the EU can start negotiating soon with a “very important friend and partner”.
EU exports to Australia include mostly vehicles and machinery, while Australia’s biggest exports are mineral and agricultural commodities.