Australia pivots to the EU
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in June 2016 | Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
CANBERRA, Australia — The world faces a time of “great uncertainty,” a “more assertive” Russia, extremist non-state actors and “disillusionment with trade liberalization,” highlighting the need for a stronger EU-Australia relationship, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday.
Bishop went off script at the Canberra launch of the EU-Australia Leadership Forum to deliver unusually effusive praise for the bloc, calling it a “global force for peace,” and a “shining example of democracy and the rule of law.”
The fact that the U.K. had voted to leave the EU has added to a global “sense of unease,” Bishop said. “We have to face that the international rules-based order is under threat.”
The launch of the EU-Australia forum signals Australia is pivoting toward Europe, its traditional ally, after an extended period in which it focused on its nearer neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It is at times like these that we need to stand up and fight for the values we share, our commitment to the rule of law, our democratic heritage and the belief in the power of markets,” Bishop said. “Amidst all this, the EU-Australia relationship has deepened, broadened.”
“This momentum behind this EU and Australia relationship will continue,” Bishop said. “We look forward to negotiating an EU-Australia free-trade agreement.”
The EU’s ambassador to Australia, Sem Fabrizi, echoed Bishop’s comments.
“We live in a changing world. What will not change is the commitment of the EU to engage with the rest of the world, especially with our close and like-minded partner Australia,” he said at the same event.
Former Director General of the World Trade Organization Pascal Lamy, a member of the forum’s steering committee, said closer ties with countries that share the EU’s values can help counterbalance some of the challenges facing the bloc.
“Our world is not doing very well, whether it’s slow growth, or higher terror threat or discontent in many populations,” he said via a prepared video message. “We know that increased international cooperation is the solution, starting with like-minded partners like the EU and Australia.”
The two partners “share many sensitivities” and a “vision of the world which is very similar,” Lamy said.