The European Union is a unique economic and political union between 27 EU countries that together cover much of the European continent.

The predecessor of the EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Since then, 22 other members joined and a huge single market (also known as the ‘internal’ market) has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential.

On 31 January 2020 the United Kingdom left the European Union.

Source: official website of the European Union



Australia and the European Union (EU) enjoy a constructive and substantial bilateral relationship built on a shared commitment to freedom and democratic values and a like-minded approach to a broad range of international issues.

Australia and the EU work together to support global efforts to combat terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and conventional weapons, and to promote peace, sustainable development, good governance and human rights.

Australia and the EU cooperate increasingly closely in the Indo-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 development assistance to the Pacific and South East Asia.

As a bloc, the EU27 is Australia’s third largest two-way trading partner (after China and Japan), with total two-way goods and services trade worth $85 billion in 2018-19, largely in favour of the EU. Merchandise trade totals  $63 billion, and trade in services over $22 billion, making the EU Australia’s second largest two-way trade in services partner after the US. 

The EU as a bloc is the second largest foreign investor in Australia, with close to $650 billion invested in the country, with the total two-way investment relationship totalling almost $1 trillion. Two-way FDI was valued at $171.8 billion.

Source: DFAT

Bilateral relationship

Australia and the EU have a long-standing and fruitful bilateral relationship, and in 2017 celebrated 55 years of formal diplomatic relations. 

Australia-EU Framework Agreement

On 7 August 2017 the EU and Australia signed the EU Australia Framework Agreement.

This Agreement (currently under provisional application pending the completion of ratification procedures underway in the EU and its Member States) builds on an existing solid cooperation basis and will enable the further promotion and expansion of relations across a broad range of areas of mutual interest, such as:

  • Foreign policy & security issues at global and regional level
  • International trade
  • Development & humanitarian aid
  • Migration & asylum
  • Research & innovation
  • Environment & climate change
  • Education & culture
  • Energy & transport

Click here to read the Framework Agreement between the EU and Australia

Click here to read the EABC submission to the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on the Framework Agreement

Source: European Union Delegation to Australia

Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement

The Australian Prime Minister together with the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission agreed in a joint statement on 15 November 2015 to start the process towards a comprehensive and high-quality Free Trade Agreement (FTA). 

Negotiations formally launched on 18 June 2018 in Canberra. The first round of negotiations took place in Brussels on 2-6 July 2018, and negotiations are still ongoing. More information on the negotiating rounds, negotiating positions and objectives, and draft EU FTA chapters are available on the respective websites:  

Click here to access the latest news on the FTA on the European Commission’s website

Click here to access the latest news on the FTA on DFAT website 

In a difficult global context, the EABC strongly welcomes the rapid progress made by the European Union  and Australia towards the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement since the launch of the negotiations in 2018. In a time of rising protectionism, the EU and Australia have committed to further enhancing the flows of goods, services, investment, technologies and people that will ensure the long-term prosperity of our economies. In a time of surging populism, the EU and Australia have built on shared values to engage in a positive and transparent process, closely liaising with stakeholders on sensitivities and expected outcomes.

Ongoing negotiations towards an FTA are a continued priority for the EABC. An ambitious and comprehensive economic partnership would set a valuable and positive framework for businesses to operate within. It would support the policy agenda prioritised by both European and Australian governments by promoting job creation and fostering economic growth, while addressing the challenges of our century in an inclusive and sustainable way. 

Useful links & Publications

Australian participation in Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the EU’s future programme to fund research and innovation, totalling €100 billion over a seven year period (2021-2027). The programme will aim to:

  • Strengthen the EU’s scientific and technological bases and the European Research Area (ERA)
  • Boost Europe’s innovation capacity, competitiveness and jobs
  • Deliver on citizens’ priorities and sustain European socioeconomic model and values

The programme will be open to third country participation. The EABC and the Group of Eight (Universities) are advocating for Australia to participate in the programme, as a once in a lifetime opportunity to strengthen research & innovation collaboration between Australia and the European Union.  

Click here to find out more on Australia’s opportunities in Horizon Europe