(source, Delegation of the European Union in Canberra)

People-to-People Links

The 2011 Australian Census found that more than one-third of the 5.3 million Australian residents born overseas were born in the European Union – some 1.9 million people.

Today, around half of the nearly one million Australians living and working abroad are in Europe and around 1.2 million Europeans visit Australia each year.

In 2011, over 35,000 students from the EU’s 27 Member States came to Australia to study. Meanwhile, some 5,000 Australian students are studying in Europe, the main countries being the UK, Germany and France.

The EU and Australia are working towards increasing student mobility between the two regions through the flagship Erasmus Mundus project and a series of bilateral exchange programs.

The EU’s Economic Presence in Australia

The EU is Australia’s leading investor with an accumulated investment of $A637 billion at the end of 2011 – 31 per cent of total foreign investment in Australia.

A 2009 update of a survey on EU investment in Australia conducted by the Delegation of the European Union to Australia, in cooperation with EU Member State diplomatic missions, found that:

  • there are nearly 2,400 EU companies with a presence in Australia, with a total estimated turnover of almost $A270 billion or just over 14 per cent of total sales in Australia; and
  • these companies directly created close to an estimated 500,000 jobs in Australia and allowing for the flow-on (multiplier) effects, were responsible for generating more than 1.4 million jobs, directly and indirectly, or just over 12 per cent of the Australian workforce.

Australia’s Economic Presence in the EU

The EU is the second major destination for Australian foreign investment after the United States, reaching $A356 billion at the end of 2011 – 30 per cent of total Australian investment abroad.

From an EU perspective, Australia is the EU’s:

  • 16th largest partner in two-way goods trade;
  • 10th largest partner in two-way services trade, and
  • 9th largest foreign direct investment partner.


In 2011, the EU was Australia’s second-largest trading partner (in goods and services) after China, with total trade worth $A81 billion.

The EU was Australia’s third-largest merchandise trading partner after China and Japan, with two-way trade totalling $A60 billion or 12 per cent of Australia’s total trade in goods.

The EU was Australia’s largest partner for trade in services in 2011, when two-way trade in services between the EU and Australia was worth $A21 billion. This represents one-fifth of Australia’s total trade in services.

Merchandise Trade

Australian exports to the EU totalled $A19.6 billion in 2011 (7 per cent of total exports), up 6 per cent on the previous year.

This makes the EU the fourth-largest market for Australian exports after China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

In 2011, three of Australia’s main export items to the EU were coal, gold and alcoholic beverages (mainly wine).

Viewed from an EU perspective, Australia was the EU’s leading external supplier of rapeseed, lead, zinc ores and wool in 2011; the second-largest source of wine, nickel, niobium and related ores, and lead ores; and the third-largest supplier of coal, barley and olive oil.

The EU is Australia’s second-largest source of imports after China, which were valued at $A40.4 billion in 2011 (17 per cent of total imports), up 5 per cent on the previous year.

In 2011, Australia’s main import items from the EU were medicaments (including veterinary), passenger motor vehicles and aircraft and related equipment.

Services Trade

The EU is the largest market for Australian services exports, which totalled $A8.3 billion in 2011 (16 per cent of total exports). Similarly, the EU is the largest source of services imports by Australia, worth $A13.1 billion in 2011 (22 per cent of total imports). Services comprise more than one quarter of total two-way trade between the EU and Australia.

The main trade in services between the EU and Australia is in travel and transportation. In 2011, personal travel (excluding education) services were ranked Australia’s third-largest export to the EU, after gold and coal, valued at $A3.7 billion. Two-way trade in education-related travel services totalled $A1 billion, placing the EU as Australia’s third-largest trading partner in education-related services after China and India.


2012 Marks 50th Anniversary of Formal Relations.

Australia first established its diplomatic relations with the EU in 1962 when its envoy at The Hague, Sir Edwin McCarthy, was accredited to Brussels. The EU officially opened its mission in Canberra in 1982. In marking the 50th anniversary, the EU Delegation and the Europe Centres at the ANU, Monash and RMIT universities have a run a series of monthly conversations where EU envoys and Australian interlocutors spoke of their country’s interaction within the EU, relations with Australia and the common challenges facing the two partners today and tomorrow. The series were recorded by ANU Centre for European Studies and most were broadcast by ABC’s Big Ideas and Sky’s A-PAC channel.

Political Relations

In 2008, the European Union – Australia Partnership Framework set out a new, enhanced and dynamic framework for cooperation between the EU and Australia. Highlights of the Partnership Framework include collaboration to strengthen dialogue and cooperation in shared foreign policy and security interests; to promote trade interests; enhance our cooperation in relation to the Asia and the Pacific region; seek opportunities to cooperate on climate change, environment, energy security, fisheries and forestry; and to strengthen cooperation in science and technology, education and culture.

The Partnership Framework is a living document, being regularly reviewed and enhanced in response to the changing global challenges and the political and economic climate. During her visit to Brussels in October 2010 for Australia’s inaugural attendance at the Asia-Europe Meeting, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed to elevate the bilateral relationship by negotiating a treaty-level Framework Agreement, to further strengthen and deepen engagement with the EU, consistent with both sides’ like-mindedness on many issues. This new agreement is currently under negotiation.

Foreign and Security Policy

As world partners, the EU and Australia work together on foreign and security policy issues. Cooperation is particularly strong in the Asia-Pacific region in areas such as counter-terrorism, asylum, organised crime prevention, development and humanitarian aid. The EU and Australia conduct regular ministerial consultations and talks between senior officials over the range of topics.

Trade and Economics

The EU and Australia work closely in the WTO Doha negotiations which offer the best opportunity for multilateral trade liberalisation. On a bilateral basis, a new agreement on trade in wine came into force on 1 September 2010 and is considered a win-win for both parties. The EU and Australia also cooperate on global economic and financial issues through the G20 and bilaterally.


Cooperation between the EU and Australia on the environment is strong, especially on global issues such as climate change. For example, there are plans to fully link the Australian Carbon Price Mechanism to the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme by 2018. The EU and Australia will continue to identify opportunities for cooperation in climate change, renewable energies, carbon capture and storage, fisheries, illegal logging, biodiversity conservation, pollution control and more.


In 2009, an annual EU-Australia Policy Dialogue on diverse education issues was established. The EU and Australia also support annual short-term mobility projects built around a common module.

The EU, together with a number of Australian universities, has created a network of Europe centres throughout Australia to promote EU Studies, undertake research and encourage knowledge of the EU-Australia bilateral relationship.

The centres comprise the ANU Centre for European Studies in Canberra, while in Melbourne there are the MEEUC at Monash University and the EU Centre at RMIT University.

Science and Technology

The EU is Australia’s largest scientific partner. In 1999, Australia became the first non-European country to sign a Science and Technology Agreement with the European Union.

In 2012, the EU and Australia agreed to define a new Australia-EU Research and Innovation Agenda cooperation Roadmap. A new Bilateral Program entitled CAESIE (Connecting Australian and European Science & Innovation Excellence) has been established to promote synergies between the programs of the EU, the Member States of the EU and Australia.