Australia-United Kingdom free trade discussions begin

By Jamie Salter

Australia is about to start negotiations with the United Kingdom for a trade deal.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said both governments were committed to progressing the free trade agreement, and improved market access for agricultural products would be at the forefront of negotiations.

“This is great news for Australian farmers and Australia’s agricultural sector,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The United Kingdom is a market with whom we can share products, innovation and services in agriculture.

“The United Kingdom and Australia recognise the importance of open markets and the benefits of global trade and investment, including to our agricultural and manufacturing sectors.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it offered a wonderful opportunity to "supercharge" the economic relationship.

“It will mean more jobs, more growth, more prosperity in both our countries,” Mr Morrison said last week.

“And more opportunities for Australian and UK citizens to live and work in each other's countries, ultimately.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he no longer wanted to deprive the British people of Arnott's Tim Tams.

“I want a world in which we send you Marmite, you send us Vegemite, we send you Penguins (a popular British chocolate biscuit) and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott's Tim Tams,” he said.

“Australia and the United Kingdom have been working on a possible trade deal since 2016 and have already struck some early agreements that will come into effect from 2021.”

Negotiations on a comprehensive deal could not formally start until Brexit took place on January 31.

The government was hopeful of striking a deal by the end of the year, but Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham cautioned that was a very short time frame.

“We have thrown the kitchen sink at being in the best possible place to commence negotiations with the United Kingdom,” he said.

Senator Birmingham said there was an opportunity for winemakers, with one in five bottles already sold in the UK, despite there being a tariff on wine from Australia.

“If we can achieve elimination of that tariff, that is going to either mean that our winemakers can ... enjoy slightly greater profits, or that they can be even more competitive in that market.”

The first round of talks between Australian and the UK will take place on Monday, June 29.