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Europe: Australia’s next critical minerals partner

critical minerals

The European Union (EU) has declared its interest in Australian critical minerals, joining a list of international suitors that includes the US, South Korea and India.

It comes as the jurisdiction reduces its dependence on Russian resources in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine. The EU’s ties with Australia have improved in recent times, with the two seeing eye-to-eye on Russia’s economic sanctions.

Head of trade and economics at the EU Delegation in Australia Cornelis Keijzer told The Sydney Morning Herald that it would need to find new critical minerals avenues to support its renewable energy aspirations.

“We’re looking for new sources,” Keijzer said. “So that is what we’re looking for from Australia: the possibility to source those raw materials now from Australia. Things like lithium, cobalt, critical materials, but also iron ore.

“We want to buy from Australia, no longer from Russia.”

Federal Trade Minister Don Farrell recently spoke with European counterparts at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Geneva, where critical minerals was a hot topic.

“Certainly the vibe coming from the Europeans is that they want to do this deal,” he said.

It appears the slate has been wiped clean between the EU and Australia after a free trade agreement between the two stalled following last year’s surprise axing of the French submarine contract.

Despite there being no set deadline for an agreement, Keijier said the EU was hoping progress would be made on a deal by early 2023.

“In terms of a provider of some of these very strategic raw materials, [Australia] is important,” he said.

“Australia is also important as a customer; we do sell a lot of goods in Australia. So there’s an interesting trading relation that can still be more developed, we think, especially as the Australian economy has a need for more diversified customers.”

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