Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has blamed the previous government led by Scott Morrison for wasting trade opportunities with Europe, during a visit to the continent.
Speaking from Spain on Monday, Mr Albanese said Australia’s track record on climate change and a failed submarine deal with France had hindered Australia’s relationships in Europe.
The Prime Minister said he was hopeful of advancing a free trade deal with the European Union over the coming months.
Mr Albanese will join a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid beginning Wednesday and met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on the eve of the event.
He said discussions for a free trade deal between Australia and the European Union had stalled, with just one meeting held in the past 12 months.
“It was clear that there were two impediments there. One was Australia’s relationship with France and the breakdown that had occurred in recent times given France’s leadership role in Europe,” he said.
“The second was Australia’s position on climate change.”
Mr Albanese said by European and global standards, Australia had become a “handbrake” on climate action which was hindering Australia’s capacity to enter into relationships with European leaders.
He noted European leaders are considering imposing penalties in the form of tariffs and other duties on goods originating from countries that aren’t advancing action on climate change.
“It was very clear that the changed position of Australia has been noticed, has been welcomed,” Mr Albanese said.
As a bloc, the European Union is Australia’s second largest trading partner and third largest export destination.
“The European economy is A$24 trillion strong and with over 400 million people, this is a market where Australia can really benefit from progressing this trade deal,” Mr Albanese said.
He said Spanish Prime Minister Mr Sánchez expressed his support for a free trade deal between Australia and the EU but added further meetings with other leaders were required.
Mr Albanese and the Spanish Prime Minister spoke for over an hour about a range of issues including the consequences for Europe from the invasion of Ukraine.
“I think symptomatic of the strength of the relationship is that the Prime Minister gave Australia so much time in that bilateral meeting the day before he hosts that NATO summit,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Albanese also reiterated his condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and shared commitment with European leaders to uphold international order.
He is scheduled to attend a royal gala dinner hosted by King Felipe VI of Spain ahead of the NATO summit.