Update October 2019
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN AUSTRALIA-BELGIUM RELATIONS
Senior-level official contacts
The most recent high-profile official Australian engagement with Belgium took place in June 2018 when the then Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove, made a State Visit to Belgium, hosted by Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians.
The Governor General’s program included meetings with the Presidents of the Chamber of Representatives and Senate of the Federal Parliament, the Governors of Namur and Bruges and the Mayor of Brussels. In addition to Brussels, he visited Gembloux, Namur, Bruges, Mechelen and De Haan where the Governor General was guest of honour at a special commemoration marking the end of the First World War.
There are frequent contacts between the two governments. Most recently, Foreign Minister Payne met Deputy Prime Minister de Croo during the UN General Assembly in September 2019. The President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, represented the Australian Government at ANZAC Day commemorations in Flanders in April 2019. The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, met her Belgian counterpart, Bruno van der Pluijm in Brussels in September 2019.
Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Belgium will lead an economic mission to Australia in October 2020.
Reflecting the many common values between the two countries, Australia and Belgium work closely together in many international organisations to promote global peace and security and respect for human rights through effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core. The two countries maintain close cooperation during Belgium’s current term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Australia and Belgium served together on the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and cooperate effectively on many issues of common interest in the Council. We share a strong commitment to the abolition of the death penalty, and Australia provided financial support to the World Congress Against the Death Penalty, jointly hosted in Brussels by the Belgian Government and the European Union in February 2019.
Australia works cooperatively with the European Union (EU) – including with Belgium as an EU member state – in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where we share an interest in an effective international rules-based trading system.
In the Indo-Pacific region, Australia works with Belgium in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Trade, investment and economic relations
Australia and Belgium have a productive economic relationship. Two-way goods and services trade was valued at A$3.4 billion (2018). Investment flows are strong - Belgium is an important source of investment for Australia, valued at A$ 5.3 billion (2018).
Australia and the European Union launched negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in June 2018. Conclusion of a comprehensive, high-quality FTA will open opportunities to further strengthen our trade and economic links.
Many strong friendships and connections between the people and governments of Australia and Belgium have developed from the shared sacrifices of the First World War. The Australian Embassy is proud to support annual ANZAC Day commemorations in Flanders and other commemorations throughout the year. We are deeply grateful to the people of Belgium for their commitment to honouring our war dead.
Thousands of Australians visit Belgium every year to pay tribute to the more than 12,000 Australian soldiers who fell in Flanders fields in the period 1916-1918. There was a significant increase in commemorative activity during the ANZAC Centenary (2014-2018) which reached its peak with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 2017.
In November 2018 the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs presented the city of Ieper with exact replicas of the Menin Gate lion sculptures. The original sculptures –given to the people of Australia in 1936 by the citizens of Ieper – stand at the entrance to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.