Address To European Parliament, Trade and Foreign Affairs Committee

  • Speech, check against delivery

Thank you Mr Brok, and I'm delighted to be here, and thank the Members of the European Parliament for enabling my colleague, Steve Ciobo, and me to speak with you today.

I am delighted to be back in Brussels and to again address this committee, because in an increasingly connected world, foreign affairs and trade matter more than ever to governments, parliaments and to our citizens.

Your work in these fields is important to the European Union and its people. It is also important for the EU's international partners, including Australia.

Australia and the EU have a shared history, culture, ideas, experiences, and in many cases we have shared interests.

Above all – Australia and the EU share a common set of values.

We believe in freedom and democracy, the rule of law, human rights.

We believe in the virtue of an open economy – a seamless flow of goods, services, capital, innovations and ideas driving prosperity and improving the lives of our citizens.

And we need to better advocate the benefits to our citizens of open markets. Australia is a G20 economy and we are the 12th or 13th largest economy in the world, we are experiencing 25 consecutive years of economic growth, and our prosperity has been based on open markets and liberalised trade.

We believe that in a globalised world, we can overcome challenges by working in partnership, and the EU's new Global Strategy is a welcome step in that direction.

So we have a great deal in common and it is not surprising that we are natural partners in so many fields of endeavour - business and commerce, the arts and throughout civil society.

Our shared interests and values, and capabilities also make us natural partners to face the emerging threats to our safety and prosperity – such as terrorism and broader global security challenges.

Australia and the EU have demonstrated time and time again that we can bring together our complementary strengths to meet these challenges.

Australians have been shocked and saddened by the recent wave of terror attacks across Europe, including here in Brussels and in the heart of other great European cities, as part of this global scourge of ISIS or Da'esh.

We are both intensifying our counter-terrorism efforts – at home, around the world, and together in groups like Europol and the Australia-EU Counter-Terrorism Dialogue.

In terms of the international security challenges, we will not fully defeat Da'esh until there is resolution of the Syrian civil war and its political and humanitarian crisis, and greater stability throughout the Middle East.

Alongside many European countries, Australia remains committed to bolstering the security of our Iraqi and Afghan partners.

Like the EU, we are working with other key partners in groupings such as the anti-Da'esh coalition and the International Syria Support Group.

Our commitment extends beyond 'hard security'. We are in fact one of the largest contributors of military personnel, to Iraq for example, but also humanitarian and development assistance, institution building , human rights protection and gender empowerment – these are all essential to building more resilient societies.

Our cooperation extends to other regions too.

Ukraine, for instance, Australia and the EU are in lock step in condemnation of Russia's actions and in putting in place tough sanctions.

Australians also appreciated EU support following the downing of Malaysian Airline's flight MH17. Thirty-eight Australians were amongst the almost three hundred souls lost in that appalling act.

Australia welcomes the EU's recognition of the importance of and active engagement in the Asia Pacific region.

The world has long looked to Europe as the champion of international law, and as a proponent of the rules based international order.

This global influence has supported prosperity in Europe, in Australia, and throughout the Asia Pacific region.

So it's imperative that we work together to promote these ideals – that international rules and norms are respected, and must be respected, by all countries.

This is the case in the South China Sea, where ongoing disputes and tension threaten one of the great conduits of global trade.

We are not a claimant state but we urge all parties not to undertake unilateral action rather to resolve their maritime disputes by peaceful negotiation.

We also welcome EU efforts on the Korean peninsula – particularly as we continue to press, through the United Nations, for strong sanctions to curtail the WMD program in North Korea.

Faced with regional and global challenges of this magnitude and complexity, Australia and the EU need willing and capable partners – so we need to deepen our own cooperation.

Indeed our Framework Agreement, which we hope will be signed by the end of this year, is an important next step - supporting our relationship across all areas of cooperation.

The agreement is our commitment to promoting security and prosperity in both of our regions, and the treaty provides a strong basis to further develop our cooperation on foreign and security policy – as well as a broader range of bilateral issues, including: sustainable development, aid delivery, economic and trade matters, justice, research, innovation, education, and across the global challenges of climate change, migration and public health.

The EU-Australia leadership forum, which Federica Mogherini and I will launch later today, is yet another expression of our deepening friendship.

The EU-Australia leadership forum will provide a platform to engage senior and emerging leaders in a conversation of ideas around how we can grow together and how our citizens can benefit from our relationship.

These are just the latest achievements in what has been an extraordinarily productive relationship throughout our 54 years of diplomatic relations.

In time, we hope to further expand our partnership with a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between our two economies.

It will be incumbent upon as all as Members of Parliament to promote the benefits of Free Trade Agreements to our respective citizens.

This too will be a partnership built on shared values, a partnership which develops our complementary economic strengths.

And I know my colleague the Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Steven Ciobo will outline that soon – Australia is better connected to the growth markets of Asia today than it ever has been.

So Australia and Europe have over many years worked to great effect in promoting prosperity and peace - and I'm reassured that these treaty level instruments will set the groundwork for an even greater partnership in the years ahead.

In the light of Brexit, I would urge Europeans not to talk in terms of decline, for we believe that the European Union has brought many benefits to this continent, and that the EU should be proud of what it has achieved in terms of prosperity, security, peace on the continent.

Australia looks forward to working with the United Kingdom, post-Brexit, but importantly we reaffirm and recommit to our relationship with the European Union, and we believe that this unique sovereign grouping of so many liberal democracies must evolve, but it must endure.

- Ends -

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