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European Commission plans strategic partnership with Australia for critical raw materials

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According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to Euractiv, the European Commission is set to sign a strategic partnership with Australia concerning critical raw materials. This move comes as part of the EU’s ongoing efforts to diversify its sources of these materials beyond China.

Kerstin Jorna, Director-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship, and SMEs at the Commission, informed Euractiv that negotiations or preparations for signature are underway for four partnerships.

The EU aims to lessen its reliance on China for critical raw materials crucial for its green and digital objectives, such as lithium for batteries and rare earth minerals for electronics.

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Despite requests for comments, the Australian mission to the EU and Austrade, Canberra’s trade agency, did not respond to inquiries from Euractiv by the time of publication.

Australia is known for its lithium resources, and discussions between the two entities regarding a bilateral free trade agreement, which would have impacted import controls on various goods including cars and beef, have been ongoing for five years. However, negotiations collapsed in November 2023, reportedly due to issues surrounding the beef sector.

Strategic partnerships typically outline areas of common cooperation rather than trade terms. For instance, the EU’s strategic partnership with Canada regarding critical raw materials involves significant European investment in Canada’s raw materials and battery sectors.

Recently, the Council of the EU approved the Critical Raw Materials Act, aiming to bolster Europe’s independence goals. In line with this legislation, the EU is forging strategic partnerships to secure access to these materials, with Norway being the most recent partner.

The CRMA identifies 17 strategic elements and an expanded list of 34 critical materials, including coking coal. The legislation sets ambitious targets for the supply of strategic elements, aiming for a certain percentage of locally extracted minerals, elements processed within the EU, and materials sourced from recycling by 2030. Additionally, it aims to limit reliance on any single third country for the supply of key materials.

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