Australia and the European Union have agreed to a number of measures to bolster relations and expressed their wish to enter into a free trade agreement as soon as possible in a meeting on Aug. 8.
Federica Mogherini, the EU Commission vice president, visited Sydney and met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as part of her official tour of Asia and Oceania to discuss regional and global challenges, and strengthen ties with nations in the region.
“Australia and the EU are embarking upon a new phase in our relationship,” Bishop said during a press conference.
The pair discussed a wide range of issues including cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, the Australia Assist program in Iraq, and stressed the importance of pursuing a free-trade agreement between Australia and the EU, one that has been described as “comprehensive and ambitious.”
Mogherini reflected on the first round of trade negotiations in July between the EU and Australia, saying that they were “very positive and very encouraging.”
“So we have all the interest in proceeding fast. Obviously a trade negotiation is a complex one but we are aiming at a very ambitious, a very positive for both sides trade agreement and the sooner the better,” she said.
During the meeting, Australia and the EU discussed the progress of a framework agreement which they signed in August last year. The framework aims to foster cooperation and communication on issues such as “terrorism, non-proliferation, the environment and energy, human rights, migration, trade, education and science, research and innovation.”
“That agreement is currently being ratified by the Australian Parliament. I understand it has been through the European Parliament and is progressing to ratification,” Bishop said.
Australia also announced that they will deploy civilian expertise to the EU mission in Iraq, under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
“We will be providing a civilian element to the EU’s mission in Iraq. Again we share a common vision of the outcome in Iraq. We want to see a peaceful, stable, democratic Iraq, and the EU has a specific mission there and we have agreed to be part of it, to bolster it, to support it and provide civilian assistance,” Bishop said.
Australia and the EU have had strong and dynamic political ties since the 1960s. They have continuously worked together in areas such as counter-terrorism, migration and asylum seekers, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organised crime prevention, development and humanitarian aid, promotion and defence of human rights as well as supporting the international rule of law both globally and regionally.