Australia Strengthens Digital Ties with EU

While Australia was unable to conclude an FTA with Europe last year, leaving the Kiwis to overtake us in 2024, we have managed to forge deeper ties on the digital economy. In a rapidly evolving digital world, the EU and Australia decided to resume their digital dialogue after a break due to the pandemic.

The Department of Industry, Science and Resources hosted the 2nd EU-Australia Digital Economy and Technology Policy Dialogue on 12 June 2024. They said, “The virtual meeting builds on our existing relationship and creates a framework to work together on our shared digital and technology priorities.”

The meeting brought together experts from several other Australian Government departments, including DFAT (Trade), to share their knowledge on artificial intelligence (AI), data governance and online safety.

Free Trade talks between Europe and Canberra collapsed in October 2023 on the sidelines of the G7 in Japan, after Australia’s trade minister, Don Farrell, unexpectedly demanded expanded quotas for beef, lamb and sugar exports, pushed by farming lobbies wary of a New Zealand-style deal.

The EU, which heavily subsidises its agricultural sectors, resists opening up its markets to Australian producers at a level Australia says is commercially meaningful. Their offer on geographical indicators would have been too restrictive too, as they demanded Australia give up rights to use terms for hundreds of products which are considered by the Europeans to be geographical indications.

Meanwhile the EU-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) officially entered into force in May 2024. The pact with NZ is one of a kind, and it has been called “a darling” by the current Commission as it embodies the idea of “sustainable trade.” The agreement is the first to wield potential sanctions for breaches of environmental or labour commitments, a measure that also aims to address European farmers’ long-standing call for “reciprocity” in production standards.

At the virtual meeting on EU-Australia Digital Economy and Technology Policy this week, Australia and Europe agreed to sign an Administrative Agreement to support the enforcement of social media regulations and increase systematic cooperation on platforms.

The two partners exchanged information on artificial intelligence (AI), in particular on the entry into force of the Artificial Intelligence Act (AI Act). Both also confirmed the importance of maintaining a global, open, stable, and secure cyberspace by protecting critical infrastructure and exchanging on ransomware and situational awareness.

The EU-Australia Digital Dialogue aims to promote an inclusive digital transformation and foster innovation. Both partners share a strong commitment to democracy, rule of law and human rights.

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