MANILA - The European Union and Australia have signed a framework agreement to enhance security and trade cooperation, a joint media statement from the two countries released on Monday said.
The agreement, expected to "encourage closer links between leaders across government, business, and civil society," also covered enhanced cooperation in the areas of climate change and sustainable development.
The signing came after the bilateral meeting between Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Manila.
With the agreement, both countries are set to launch the negotiations for a comprehensive and high quality free trade agreement. A scoping study that sets out boundaries for future talks has also been completed.
Bishop said the free trade agreement is an expression of commitment to free and open markets amid the growing protectionism in the West.
In the joint statement, Mogherini also hailed the agreement as a reflection of "how strong our ties are already and how they will become stronger through our increase exchanges and cooperation, for the sake of our peoples and of the world."
The EU is the largest source of foreign investment and second largest trading partner of Australia.