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  • Rikki Lambert

Aus-UK post-Brexit trade deal imminent

Australia's Trade Minister has told FlowNews24 Australia is closing in on a free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of June. FTAs reduce tariffs - designed to protect domestic industries from cheaper imports - between the party nations to encourage greater bilateral goods and services trade between nations.

Minister Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan was positive about his negotiations with his British counterpart, Liz Truss:

"We're making good progress on the UK FTA. I had two days sitting down with Liz Truss on my recent visit to the UK and we are now meeting every week in a sprint to have an in principle agreement by the end of June.
"We have been consistent throughout this process that we don't comment on the details of the negotiations."

The Minister's comments come as the Guardian UK reported early Wednesday (Australian time) that Britain's National Farmers' Union assembled representatives on Tuesday afternoon (UK time) to voice concerns over a split in the Johnson cabinet over whether to sign off on a wide-ranging free trade deal with Australia.

Contrary to the Minister's comments to FlowNews24, the Guardian claims Ms Truss is 'racing to conclude negotiations ahead of the G7 summit', which is due to occur from 11 to 13 June in Cornwall.

The Australian FTA would be the first the United Kingdom has signed outside of the European Union after a host of trade deals were inked to approximately replicate pre-Brexit arrangements with mainland trading partners.

Australia's wine industry has been battered by punitive Chinese tariffs imposed by what had become the destination of one-third of Australian wine. Wine Australia says that the United Kingdom is the world's fifth-largest wine market, 'almost entirely dependent on imported wine' and is 'the world's second-largest wine importer'. They estimate that in 2020 the UK imported just under 1.5 billion litres of wine worth over USD$4 billion, with Australia currently the second-largest source of wine imports by volume and fourth-largest by value.

Meat and Livestock Australia say in their market snapshot of the UK:

Free trade negotiations between the UK and Australian governments were launched in June 2020. Prior to joining the EU in 1973, the UK was a strong Australian red meat export market. The opportunity to negotiate a more trade liberal regime with the UK post-Brexit is compelling, given it is home to a large pool of wealthy consumers already familiar with red meat products

Australian meat has been reportedly perceived to be less fresh and more inconvenient to purchase than domestic British and Irish beef, however it is nonetheless seen as safer to eat after domestic and other foreign-sourced meat has been struck by disease and other scandals.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reports that Australia's major export to the United Kingdom is gold, worth $12 billion, while pharmaceuticals (a combined $1bn at last estimate before COVID-19) and passenger vehicles ($766m) were Australia's predominant UK imports by value.

Australia ranks as the UK's 20th largest export destination but its 17th largest import source, with Germany, China and the USA the country's biggest source of imported goods and services.

Whilst the Australian government hopes to conclude negotiations by the end of June, England's eyes will also be looking towards Australia in December to reclaim cricket's Ashes. The BBC observed on Wednesday that its team will warm up in June against New Zealand and then India, whereas Australia's men's cricket team will not have played any test cricket except for a just-announced first-ever 5-day Test match against Afghanistan in Hobart.


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