The European Union has been Australia’s largest economic partner for over 25 years, and is the world’s largest single market with almost half a billion consumers accounting for almost a third of global GDP. More broadly, the EU has become a global force in developing public and economic policy “usurping America’s role as a source of global standards”, The Economist, 20 Sept 07.
In recent years the Australian Government has significantly boosted its engagement with Europe with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Trade Ministers, as well as other members of the Cabinet travelling to Brussels for dialogue with their counterparts at the European Commission.
There are 27 members of the EU, with a further three candidate countries. Australia and the EU cooperate increasingly closely in the Asia-Pacific region, including to enhance security, stability and good governance, and to improve the coordination of development cooperation assistance among donors to the region. The EU is a significant provider of aid to the Pacific and South East Asia. Australia has a number of formal bilateral agreements with the EU and its institutions.