Australia's minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop says it's her government's priority to focus on a trade agreement with the EU, and expressed concerns about the current tide of economic nationalism taking hold in certain parts of the world.
The deputy leader of the Liberal Party in Dublin today conducting bi-lateral meetings with her counterpart Charlie Flanagan, as well as the Irish-Australian Chamber of Commerce.
“Our priority is to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union”, Minister Julie Bishop told Newstalk.
“And we see Ireland as a great opportunity for us to work with countries of the EU, through Ireland.”
Much of the economic argument behind the push to leave the EU in Britain was the notion that the UK could be free to do its own bi-lateral trade deals, without Europe having a say over how trade is conducted.
The UK is not free to engage in any official trade negotiations until Brexit divorce negotiations are concluded, and it is no longer a member of the EU.
The Australian government had hoped for the UK to remain with the EU, and a trade working group has been sent to the UK after the vote, but the Foreign Minister said today that Brexit now gives Australia the “opportunity to reset the relationship [with the EU] and enhance our trade an investment ties.”
“We are committed to free trade that is in the interest of the Australian people. It grows our economy; it provides jobs, particularly for young people.”
She also said the current rising tide of protectionism and nationalism in parts of the US, UK and other countries is a “concern” for Australia.
“We take very seriously this rising sentiment of protectionism and economic nationalism and intend to continue to pursue an economic agenda that involves free trade. We are pursuing free trade agreements – we’ve concluded a number including with the North Asian giants of China, Korea and Japan.
"We’ll continue with a free trade agreement, hopefully with the EU.”
She said she also sees Australia increasing trade with "countries like Ireland where we have so many similarities and complimentary economies."
“Australia’s economic strength; our standard of living depends on our ability to sell our goods and services in to the market places around the world, and I believe Ireland has a similar outlook”, she said.