EU-Australia Memorandum of Understanding: A Partnership on Sustainable Critical and Strategic Minerals

In a significant development marking a collaborative approach towards sustainable development, the European Union (EU) and Australia have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) focusing on the sustainable management of critical and strategic minerals. The MoU was signed by notable officials from both territories, with Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis, and Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton representing the EU, and Resources and Northern Australia Minister Madeleine King, along with Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell signing on behalf of Australia.

The  aim of this partnership is to diversify the EU’s supply chains for essential materials required for green and digital transitions and to support the growth of Australia’s domestic critical minerals sector. The agreement encompasses the full spectrum of the critical and strategic minerals value chain, including exploration, extraction, processing, refining, recycling, and the management of extractive waste.

Furthermore, the partnership intends to extend its collaborative efforts beyond the EU and Australia, targeting joint projects in third countries where mutual interests converge, especially in initiatives expected to minimise environmental impacts and offer benefits to local communities. The agreement also seeks to promote the advancement of innovative and digital technologies and services within the mining sector and across the critical minerals value chain.

Areas of Cooperation

Under the terms of the MoU, both Australia and the EU have committed to enhancing cooperation in several critical areas. These include the integration of sustainable raw materials value chains, collaboration on research and innovation along these value chains, and the promotion of elevated environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards and practices. This strategic alliance aims to establish secure and sustainable critical and strategic minerals value chains vital for supporting clean energy and digital transitions, as well as other key industrial sectors, including defence and aerospace.

The EU’s strategy of employing its bilateral free trade agreements to deepen trade and investment links, diversify supply chains, and bolster economic resilience is notably pertinent in the context of critical raw materials supply chains. The EU’s extensive network of trade agreements and the inclusion of chapters dedicated to Energy and Raw Materials in its latest accords underscore the strategic importance of these resources. Additionally, ongoing negotiations for an EU-Australia free trade agreement further emphasise the strategic nature of this partnership.

Future Directions

Following the MoU’s enactment, both parties will develop a roadmap detailing concrete actions to implement the Strategic Partnership within the next six months. Commissioner Thierry Breton highlighted the partnership’s potential to significantly impact the raw materials ecosystem within the EU and Australia, fostering cooperation, investment, and business opportunities.

Image: EC – Audiovisual Service. Xavier Lejeune. © European Union, 2024