Commission clinches raw materials deal with Australia

Commission clinches raw materials deal with Australia

The European Commission today (28 May) announced it has forged its 13th trade partnership designed to source critical raw materials from outside the bloc, with Australia.

Valdis Dombrovskis and Thierry Breton, respectively commissioners for trade and the internal market, appeared alongside signatory Australian trade minister Don Farrell, claiming the deal was “based on mutual benefits” — enabling the EU to diversify supply, and the development of Canberra’s domestic critical minerals sector.

Australia is one of the world's leading producers of aluminium ore, cobalt, copper, iron ore, lithium, lead, rare earth elements, uranium, and zinc, all of which deemed indispensable for the manufacturing of batteries fit to power electric vehicles (EVs) — a flagship EU executive ambition under the so-called European Green Deal to decarbonise transport and slash carbon dioxide and air pollution levels.

The trade deal should come into force over the next six months, according to the Commission, and sets out cooperation on the integration of sustainable raw materials value chains, research and innovation as well as the promotion of environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.

“Our trade partnership focuses on integrated value chains, boosting research and innovation for both sides as well as sustainable production. This will also help us to deliver the green and digital transition,” said Dombrovkis.

French commissioner Breton said today’s deal “will boost cooperation, investments and business opportunities”.

“We now need to move forward swiftly and work together with governments and private sector to unlock the full investment and business potential,” he added.

The Australian minister echoed Breton, saying the trade partnership “will encourage investment from the EU into Australian renewable energy projects”, and adding that the country’s minerals will make a great contribution to the development of EVs and wind turbines.

“Investment from our international partners is vital to achieving Australia’s full potential as a Renewable Energy Superpower – and helps create more secure well-paid jobs for Australians,” said Farrell

The EU had been courting Australia since last year, having reportedly failed to secure a deal on the sidelines of the G7 trade ministers in Japan, last October, due to the bloc’s rules on geographic indicators which would block Australian producers from labelling products with European names such as ‘prosecco’ or ‘feta’. During a flash visit to Brussels last summer, Farrell also expressed lack of enthusiasm with the offers given by the EU for Australian beef, lamb and sugar producers.

Divergencies among the parties were overcome with today’s signing of a trade deal, and add Australia to the growing list of countries with whom the EU has concluded similar agreements: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Greenland, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Norway, Rwanda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zambia. A partnership with Serbia is looming too, Euronews learned during a high-level event on raw materials held recently in Brussels.