EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the start of talks on a “comprehensive and ambitious” trade agreement.

According to Malmström, both countries will benefit from such an agreement. The Commissioner added that such an achievement would increase the economic opportunities for small and big business and also open new jobs.

The EU is already the second largest trading partner of Australia, and since the start of the tariff conflict with the United States earlier this year, Brussels is striving to diversify its external relations.

Bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Australia is growing steadily in recent years, reaching almost €48 billion last year. The sectors which form the majority of EU exports to Australia are transport equipment, machinery and appliances, chemicals, food and services.

Bilateral trade in services amounts to about €28 billion. Through the agreement, trade in goods between the two partner countries could be increased by over one third.

On 22 May, the Council of the European Union adopted a decision authorising the opening of negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Australia.

The negotiations with Australia is part of the EU’s open and fair trade agenda. They start after the negotiations with Japan last year and with Mexico in the spring of this year, as well as after the EU-Canada trade agreement that entered into force last September.

The first round of official talks will take place in Brussels from 2 to 6 July. Negotiations will take place along with the trade dispute between USA and China after both sides have imposed mutual duties. The EU is among the victims of the Trump decision to impose duties on imports of steel and aluminium, while Australia was exempted from them because it agreed to limit its exports to the US.

So far, the EU and Australia have engaged in their trade and economic relations in the EU-Australia Partnership Framework since 2008.