Hunter industry looks to strengthen ties with European union.

Looking forward: Regional Development Australia, Hunter chief executive Todd Williams says increasing ties with Europe could create jobs and boost the region's economic prosperity Picture: Simone DePeak

Looking forward: Regional Development Australia, Hunter chief executive Todd Williams says increasing ties with Europe could create jobs and boost the region's economic prosperity Picture: Simone DePeak

The Hunter Region will aim to increase trade links with the European Union in a bid to capture a greater slice of an $80 billion market.

Consisting of 28 countries, the EU is the largest economy in the world.

Its trade with Australia amounted to $83.9 billion in 2014.

Regional Development Australia, Hunter chief executive Todd Williams said increasing ties with Europe could create jobs and boost prosperity.

“We’ll trade with everyone, but Europe is an avenue we aim to open up more,” Mr Williams said.

The move coincides with the federal government’s new innovation agenda and the start of work on a free trade agreement between Australia and the EU.

Mr Williams said the main way the EU created jobs was through innovation policy.

The Hunter aimed to sharpen its tools in this area to match the European way of operating.

It comes as the Hunter faces a big challenge to secure new sources of growth and productivity beyond the mining boom.

Mr Williams believed traditional industries such as coal should be supported through tough times, but said the region should not ignore change.

“We have to go after our competitive advantages – this is about our future,” he said.

The Newcastle Herald will begin a series of stories on Monday about Regional Development Hunter's aim to transform the region’s economy.

This involved the creation of a “smart specialisation” strategy, which matched the EU’s approach to economic development and trade.

The Hunter organisation pinpointed the region’s seven competitive advantages.

These were: food and agribusiness, mining equipment; technology, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, oil, gas and energy, advanced manufacturing; defence; and creative industries.

The strategy aims to highlight sectors expected to create the region’s future jobs.

Readers will get the chance to contribute, with a vote on the Herald’s website on December 16.

This will coincide with the head of trade of the EU’s Australian delegation, Ivano Casella, paying a visit to Newcastle.

Mr Casella will give a presentation about a European case study on “smart specialisation” and its benefits.

"The EU's smart specialisation platform is about identifying niche areas of competitive strength and solving challenges,” he said.

Regional Development Hunter has benchmarked the region’s performance against the EU.

While the Hunter compared well to some countries, it was some way off Europe’s economic titan, Germany.

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