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Italy

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Italy country brief

Bilateral relationship

Australia and Italy first established diplomatic relations in 1949. Australia and Italy are highly-developed and complementary G20 economies with robust international engagement on shared interests. The 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 and more than 160,000 Australian residents born in Italy.

Australia and Italy cooperate in a range of areas, including science and technology, culture and the arts, and security. Australia and Italy have worked together in the counter terrorism space, and 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.

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 was one of several countries that signed the convention founding the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1960.

Fast facts

Italian visitors to Australia (2022)
36,310
Australian resident returns from Italy (2022)
126,720
Resident Australian population born in Italy (2021 census)
163,326
Australian residents of Italian descent (2021 census)
1,108,364
Italian working holidaymakers (2022)
8,150
Italian students in Australia (2022)
3,753

High level engagement

  • November 2023 – Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Watts and Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing Ayres both met with Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Assistant Foreign Minister) Giorgio Silli during his visit to Australia
  • May 2023 – Prime Minister Albanese met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima
  • January 2023 – Assistant Minister for Trade Ayres visited Rome
  • November 2022 – Prime Minister Albanese met with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali
  • June 2022 – Prime Minister Albanese met with then Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the NATO Summit in Madrid
  • May 2022 – Prime Minister Albanese had a phone call with then Prime Minister Mario Draghi shortly after the Australian elections

Agreements with Italy

Australia has numerous bilateral agreements with Italy, including on social security, double taxation, trade and cooperation.

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

Trade and investment

In 2022, Australia’s goods and services trade with Italy was valued at $11.5 billion (up 28 per cent from $9 billion in 2021), with the balance of trade strongly in Italy’s favour. Australia’s principal exports to Italy that year were coal, wool and other animal hair, and education-related travel. Major imports from Italy comprised pharmaceutical products (excluding medicaments), recreational travel and medicaments (including veterinary).

In 2022, total stock of investment between Italy and Australia was valued at $14.1 billion (Australian stock of investment in Italy totalled $8.4 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 fibre to the home (FTTH) wholesaler. Italian investment in Australia is focused on a diverse range of sectors including in infrastructure (Webuild, Ghella), defence (Leonardo), energy (Eni, Enel), and food (PreGel, Ferrero).

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.

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.

Public diplomacy

The Australian Embassy in Rome manages a public diplomacy program that encompasses art, culture, sport, science and technology. It is focussed on supporting Australian excellence in areas such as film, theatre, art, music, science, space, literature, and sport.

The Embassy is also committed to incorporating the perspectives and views of First Nations Australians into all aspects of its public diplomacy work.

Australian Embassy in Rome

Via Antonio Bosio, 5

00161, Rome

Ph: +39 06 8527 21

Email: info-rome@dfat.gov.au

Travel

See Smartraveller for information on travelling to Italy.

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