Australia Begins Free Trade Talks With the UK

June 17, 2020 Updated: June 18, 2020

Australia and the United Kingdom have announced the beginning of negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement.

In a press release on June 17, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that Australia was looking forward to helping the UK find new opportunities in the post-Brexit period.

“We’ve been preparing for this deal since the UK decided to leave the EU and welcome their agreement to commence negotiations,” said Birmingham.

“Both Australia and the UK want an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that builds on our already significant people-to-people links and creates new opportunities for exporters, generating more jobs in our nations,” commented Birmingham.

“This agreement will underpin the future economic relationship between our two countries and send a strong signal of our mutual support for free trade, which will be vital in a post-COVID-19 world,” he added.

Birmingham signalled that the United Kingdom Australia Free Trade Agreement (UKAFTA) would help our farmers, business, and investors open up new doors to the UK.

“Having more export options can only be a good thing for our farmers and businesses, and that’s why we will be seeking improved market access, including for agricultural products, through the elimination wherever possible of tariffs, quotas, and non-tariff barriers,” said Birmingham.

The UK is Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner with a two-way trade in goods and services valued at $30.3 billion. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also notes that the UK is our second-largest source of and destination for investment, with over $1.1 trillion invested across our two economies.

A priority for DFAT in the negotiations will be the services sectors which is a key sector in Australia and UK trading relationship with DFAT expected to push for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications and greater certainty for skilled professionals who would like to enter the UK labour market.

“Boosting trade in services, a growing part of our economy and a central element of the UK economy, not only makes economic sense but has real potential to grow well beyond the $15 billion of value it generates now,” said Birmingham.

The United Kingdom is Australia’s third-largest services trading partner. It accounted for nearly 8 percent of our total services trade in 2018 -2019, which is around $15.2 billion.

As the world moves into the post-COVID-19 period, Birmingham also believes that UKAFTA will help Australia and the UK explore opportunities to secure more reliable supply chains that will withstand any future economic shocks.

“Our ambition is to conclude this deal as quickly as possible, building on the work we began back in 2016 through the establishment of an Australia-UK Trade Working Group.”

The first round of negotiations for UKAFTA will be conducted virtually and will start on June 29, 2020.