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Italy country brief

Key engagement

Australia and Italy are two highly developed and complementary G20 economies with robust international engagement and enduring people-to-people ties.

Australia and Italy established diplomatic relations in 1959.


Australia and Italy are pursuing stronger bilateral relations, driven by shared values and strategic interests.

Australia and Italy’s trade and economic ties will develop further through the negotiation of a comprehensive and ambitious Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement. There are opportunities for further collaboration in the Indo-Pacific through Italy’s contribution to the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and the EU’s Global Gateway Initiative.

Bilateral relations

The Australia-Italy relationship is underpinned by close and enduring people-to-people links. Following the mass migration at the end of World War II, the Italian community has greatly contributed to Australian society, culture, and lifestyle, including in food, art, design, sport, and architecture.  The 2021 Census recorded just over one million Australians of Italian descent.

Italy and Australia cooperate on security issues, such as counter-terrorism, and have worked together on security capacity-building in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Australia and Italy are collaborating with other partners on the Square Kilometre Array to build the world’s biggest radio telescope at sites in Australia and South Africa.  The newly established Australian Space Agency works closely with its Italian counterpart.  There is likely to be further collaboration on space projects.

Visitor arrivals fell considerably in 2020 from the pre-pandemic level, dropping further to just 1,800 visitors by year ended December 2021. These numbers started to rise again in the first half of 2022. Resident returns also dropped significantly for the year ending December 2020, and by 90% for year ending December 2021, compared with year ending December 2019. They remain low.

The number of Working Holiday Maker visas granted to 30 June 2022 rose by 121.2%% (from 2,619 to 5,792) compared to the preceding year.

The number of Working Holiday Maker visas granted to 30 June 2021 fell by 68.1% (from 8,219) compared to the preceding year.

Foreign policy

Italy’s foreign policy is centred on a strong European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and multilateralism more broadly.  Italy was one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC), signed in Rome in 1957.  This later became the European Union with the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992.  Italy joined the European Monetary Union in 1999, with the Euro becoming common legal tender in Italy in 2002.

Italy joined NATO in 1949 as one of its founding members.  It has contributed to NATO‑led missions including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo.  One of NATO’s three Joint Force Commands is located in Naples, while Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily provides logistical support to Italian, US, and other NATO member forces.  The NATO Defence College, the international military college for NATO members, is based in Rome.

Italy joined the UN in 1955.  To date, it has served seven times as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, most recently in 2017.  UN agencies based in Rome are the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Programme.

Italy signed the convention founding the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1960

Fast Facts

  • Italian visitors to Australia (Year ended June 2022) — 10,300
  • Australian resident returns from Italy (Year ended June 2022) — 21,300
  • Resident Australian population born in Italy (2021 census) — 163,326
  • Australian residents of Italian descent (2021 census) — 1,108,364
  • Italian working holidaymakers (Year ended 30 June 2022) — 5,729
  • Italian students in Australia (2021) — 5,435

High level engagement

  • 2022 — Prime Minister Albanese spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Draghi shortly after the Australian elections.
  • 2021 — then Foreign Minister Marise Payne met Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio at the G7 in Liverpool.
  • 2021 — then Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the G20 Summit of Heads of State and Government hosted in Rome by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
  • 2021 — then Trade Minister Dan Tehan met with Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi di Maio at the G20 Trade Ministers Meeting in Sorrento.
  • 2021 — then Prime Minister Scott Morrison participated in a virtual G20 Leaders Meeting on Afghanistan hosted by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
  • 2021 — then Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

Agreements and Arrangements with Italy

  • 2021 — Treaty on Scientific, Technological, and Innovation Cooperation entered into force
  • 2019 — Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian and Australian Space Agencies
  • 2004 — Working Holiday Visa Arrangement
  • 2000 — Social Security Agreement
  • 1994 — Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Crime Matters
  • 1990 — Extradition Treaty
  • 1988 — Health Assistance Agreement
  • 1985 — Double Taxation Agreement
  • 1984 — Economic and Commercial Cooperation Agreement
  • 1960 — Air Services Agreement (technical revision in 2017)

Texts of bilateral agreements are available at the Australian Treaties Database.

Political Overview

Italy is a parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. Executive power is vested in the Council of Ministers, which is led by the Prime Minister. Legislative power is vested in the two houses of Parliament – the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and the Senate (upper house), with elections held every five years.  The President is the head of state, chosen by Parliament every seven years.

Public diplomacy

The Australian Embassy in Rome manages a public diplomacy program that encompasses art, culture, sport, science and technology.  While the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed opportunities for direct involvement in public diplomacy events, the Embassy continues to support Australian excellence in areas such as film, theatre, art, music, science, space, literature, and sport.

Australian Embassy in Rome

Economic diplomacy

In 2021, Australia’s goods and services trade with Italy was valued at $9.0 billion (up 13.9% from $7.9 billion in 2020), with the balance of trade strongly in Italy’s favour. Australia’s principal exports to Italy that year were wheat, wool and other animal hair, and education-related travel. Major imports from Italy comprised medicament (including veterinary), travel goods and bags, and mechanical handling equipment and parts.

In 2021, total stock of investment between Italy and Australia was valued at $11.3 billion (Australian total stock of investment in Italy totalled $8.7 billion). Australian companies with a presence in Italy include Lendlease, which has a major contract to create the Milan Innovation District on the former Expo 2015 site, and Macquarie, which is part-owner of Autostrade per l’Italia, one of Europe’s largest toll road operators, and of Open Fiber, a fiber to the home (FTTH) wholesaler.  Italian investment in Australia is focused on infrastructure and energy, with major companies such as Webuild, Ghella, Rizzani de Eccher, Enel, and ENI involved in key projects.

More economic and trade information.

Australia continues to seek opportunities to promote Australian business and raise awareness of potential benefits of increased trade between Australia and Europe, including Italy. This work has intensified followed the launch of Australia-EU FTA negotiations in June 2018.

More information about the Australia-EU FTA.


Opportunities for Australian businesses in Italy include renewable energy; agribusiness and food; advanced manufacturing; digital technologies; international health; international education; and infrastructure and rail.

See Austrade’s office in Milan for more information on doing business in Italy.

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