A new free trade agreement (FTA) has been confirmed as a key priority for deepening the economic and diplomatic relationship between the EU and Australia.
Following recent talks, a joint statement from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council president Donald Tusk and Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated that work will soon commence to support the launch of negotiations regarding an FTA between the regions.
Strengthening the EU-Australia relationship has been highlighted as an important step forward, following the finalisation of negotiations for the EU-Australia Framework Agreement, and the establishment of an EU-Australia Leadership Forum, to be launched in 2016.
The joint statement said: "We believe that an FTA will support sustainable growth and investment, open up new commercial opportunities and promote innovation and employment in Australia and the EU.
"We will aim to achieve a comprehensive and balanced outcome that liberalises trade, promotes productive investment flows and enhances the regulatory environment for business."
Discussions to define the scope and approach to these negotiations are set to commence as soon as possible, with steps also set to be taken to seek the necessary authorisation for negotiations on the basis of a successful scoping.
It was also confirmed that research and innovation collaborations between the EU and Australia will also be a key area of focus in future in order to drive growth and employment in both territories. This work will be conducted through the EU's Horizon 2020 programme and Australia's Australian Research Council and National Health and Medical Research Council.
Additionally, the ministers pledged to work together to secure a legally binding climate change agreement that can be executed by Australian and European organisations.