This February, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop paid a short visit to Budapest, where she met her Hungarian counterpart as well as representatives from the business community. Diplomacy&Trade talked to her afterwards about the main topics of discussion in those meetings and what tangible results could come from them, in the near future, in trade and other aspects of bilateral relations.
“Minister Szijjártó invited me to Hungary some time ago and my visit to Budapest gave us the chance to discuss a broad range of issues that are of bilateral significance,” she explains, adding that “of particular importance is the value to both Hungary and Australia of a future Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement. We want to work closely with like-minded countries who support free liberalized trade and investment, to enhance existing markets and find new markets for our goods and services.” She believes Hungary has much to gain from an Australia-EU FTA – from potential tariff cuts in sectors such as passenger vehicles, manufactured goods and food, to regulatory cooperation, government procurement, and preferential services and investment.
“My meetings were also an opportunity to exchange views on migration. Australia supports legal and sustainable migration. We are one of the most successful multicultural societies on earth and a nation of immigrants. Over half of Australia’s population was born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas. Australia has settled over 865,000 refugees since World War II and each year accepts around 190,000 migrants from all corners of the globe,” she points out.
Australia and the V4
Julie Bishop was the first Australian Foreign Minister to attend a Foreign Ministerial meeting of the Visegrád Group (V4). Regarding the importance of this regional group, within the European Union, for Australia and the important subjects touched upon by the participants, she stresses that Australia values the views of the Visegrád Four, collectively and as individual nations. “With a combined GDP of over USD one trillion and continuing, strong economic growth, we share common views on open economies, trade and investment liberalization. In this context, the V4 plus Australia Foreign Ministers meeting complements our already strong bilateral relations, which are built on common values and strong people-to-people links, underpinned by vibrant diaspora communities in Australia. Indeed, there are around 293,000 Australians with heritage from V4 countries.”
She says they exchanged views on opportunities for bolstering trade relations through an Australia-EU FTA and also on global and regional developments and challenges. “Australia and members of the Visegrád Group are already cooperating in a number of ways to advance our mutual security interests. Australia and Hungary, for example, are working together in the United Nations, where we are serving on the Human Rights Council. We are also cooperating through deployments to support international peace and security in Afghanistan and through participation in the Global Coalition against ISIS.”
In summary, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs highlights that her country is interested in the V4 grouping because “it brings a fresh perspective to the EU that we have not previously accessed. There is much potential to grow Australia’s relationship with the V4 and my visit allowed me to explore and to ensure we can build on our already very warm relations.”