Sweden and Australia — Creating a Greener Trade Future

Op-Ed co-written with:

Johan Forssell, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. Minister Forssell is accompanying HRH Crown Princess Victoria and HRH Prince Daniel on their current trip to Australia.

In an increasingly volatile world, the importance of strong partnerships between democratic and open societies is fundamental. As two countries with shared values and interests, Australia and Sweden are more closely aligned than ever before.

Russia’s ongoing illegal war of aggression in Ukraine — which will lamentably mark its first anniversary later this month – is a humanitarian catastrophe. It threatens international peace and stability and has devastating consequences for the world. The strong response to the invasion by our two countries along with others has underscored our support for Ukraine and the importance we attach to international law, and to upholding the UN Charter.

The war in Ukraine is a sobering reminder that, in an increasingly contested world, conflict can never be ruled out. The defence of democracy and the rules-based international order is therefore more important than ever.

The nexus between security and trade is clear. Sweden and Australia are both trading nations that are economically stronger when global trade flows freely. More trade, not less, is key to building economic strength and security for both countries.  The increasing use of economic coercion and the pandemic have underscored the volatility of supply chains, and the importance of trading withreliable and likeminded partners.

Australia and Sweden share excellent trade relations which date all the way back to the early 1800s and which carry enormous potential in a range of areas. Australia welcomes Sweden’s strong support for the conclusion of negotiations of a trade agreement between the EU and Australia during its presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first of half of 2023.

A comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement would assist to diversify trade and expand opportunities for businesses in both countries. It would also support investment flows in both directions. Free trade entails facilitating exports and welcoming imports, to the benefit of both consumers and companies in Australia and Europe.

At a time of crisis and economic distress, a free trade agreement would also underscore our joint commitment to open, sustainable, and rules-based trade that contributes to growth and healthy competitiveness.

Trade between Australia and Sweden today is valued at $3.4 billion (2021 figures). Sweden is one of the world’s most open and pro-free trade countries, with 88 percent of the country’s GDP dependent on international trade. Similarly, 1 in 4 Australian jobs are export related. Whether it be a Volvo car, Electrolux washing machine, or IKEA BILLY bookcase, Australians are no strangers to quality Swedish products. Behind the scenes Ericsson is closing the digital divide by developing Australia’s 5G-infrastructure.

Innovative Australian companies, in turn, are increasingly making a name for themselves in Sweden. For example, Ramsay Healthcare — Australia’s largest investor in the Nordics — owns Swedish healthcare group, Capio, while Cochlear has a large manufacturing site in Gothenburg to produce implantable hearing devices for Europe.

Sweden and Australia also see eye-to-eye on climate and sustainability, with companies from both countries working to reduce environmental impact and decarbonise our societies and economies.

While we are both mining nations, our sights are set on a greener future for the industry. Australian company Talga is focused on the sustainable production of green battery anode and advanced materials in northern Sweden, while Swedish companies are at the forefront of making Australia’s mining industry more sustainable. These examples demonstrate our complementary capabilities to develop battery value chains required to produce electric vehicles and products that will support the green transition.

Australia is also starting to realise its potential to become a major supplier of renewable energy and related technology and expertise to Europe. Australia’s Macquarie developed Sweden’s largest onshore wind farm, while Australian start-up H2X Global — based in Gothenburg — is developing hydrogen vehicles to advance the decarbonisation of local government waste services in Sweden.

While our trade is already substantial, there is plenty of room for it to grow. An Australia–EU Trade Agreement will further strengthen our countries’ economic relationship. It would also help further increase trade and investment in the critical minerals and renewable energy vital for the energy transition of both our countries, and be an important political pillar in the broader Australia–EU partnership.

As we continue to navigate the choppy waters of current international relations, there has been no greater imperative for likeminded partners like Sweden and Australia to work together. Thankfully we are starting from a strong base.

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