The Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb has welcomed the overnight release of the European Commission’s new trade and investment strategy, confirming it will seek authorisation from the EU's member countries, to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Australia.
Mr Robb said the announcement is an important initial step towards launching an Australia-EU FTA.
"An FTA has the potential to unlock new opportunities and levels of market access across a range of areas such as agribusiness, services and high-value manufacturing. For Australian consumers it could also deliver reduced prices on a range of quality European goods including cars," Mr Robb said.
The EU is already a major market for Australia with its members combined constituting the world’s biggest economy.
"The EU bloc represents our second largest trading partner with two-way trade exceeding $80 billion; more than 12 per cent of our total trade," Mr Robb said.
The EU is also the single largest source of investment into Australia, worth $959 billion in 2014, including nearly a quarter of our FDI (Foreign Direct Investment).
A decision to proceed to the commencement of bilateral negotiations remains subject to agreement by the EU’s 28 member countries.
Mr Robb said having concluded landmark trade deals with the major economies of North Asia in Korea, Japan and China, along with negotiations for the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the EU presented something of a missing piece.
"Our ambitious pursuit of trade and investment is a key element of this government's microeconomic reform agenda in this critical post-mining boom period. It is an important part of our efforts to support the diversification of our economy and reduce our reliance on any one sector or any one market," Mr Robb said.
Mr Robb praised Australia's Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann for the groundwork he has laid which has helped build momentum towards an FTA negotiation.
Earlier this year, Senator Cormann visited Europe and met with key government ministers in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium and senior European Commission Representatives to promote options to deepen the trade and investment relationship with Europe, in particular by pursuing the opportunity of a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the European Union.
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