The State of the European Union

By Kari Seeley

On 13 September 2017, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, delivered his annual State of the Union address at the European Parliament.

It was a speech given on the other side of the world, about countries as far away as you can get from Australia, and a casual observer may conclude that this speech had little, if anything, to do with Australia. But they would be wrong.

President Juncker spoke about strengthening the European trade agenda, and declared Europe “open for business” – perhaps borrowing the line from The UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech to the World Economic Forum in January 2017. The optimistic tone was raised further with confirmation of a new free trade agreement with Canada, and a new bilateral economic partnership with Japan, with the expectation of having a similar economic partnership with Mexico and other Latin American countries to follow by the end of the year.

President Juncker also announced the launch of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

And, this is where it gets particularly interesting, the President of the European Commission also announced an intention to finalise all those trade agreements by the end of this Commission’s current mandate, that is by November 2019.

Given the snail’s pace at which such negotiations have typically proceeded heretofore, delivery of a binding Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the European Union in the next two years would be positively Eurostar speed!

This augurs well for South Australian businesses and the South Australian economy. The State Government of South Australia released the South Australia – Europe Engagement Strategy in December 2016, and is already touting an action plan to be well placed to leverage the opportunities for investment, exports and research partnerships with the European Union in the next two years and beyond. And through the South Australian – French Engagement Strategy, the State Government is fostering even closer ties directly with France, in partnership with the Federal Government of Australia, and thereby sending a very clear message:

President Juncker and President Macron, South Australia is open for business!

Download a copy of State of the Union 2017 brochure HERE.

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