Australia free trade deal could be completed this month
The long promised free trade agreement between the UK and Australia could be finalised by the end of March, according to the British High Commissioner.
A free trade deal that is predicted to boost trade by more than £10 billion is inching ever closer to the finish line, ministers reported this week.
While both countries agreed terms for the agreement in December 2021, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has since criticised the agreement for being “too one-sided”.
Similarly, the UK farming sector has expressed concern that the agreement gives greater market access to Australian producers who may be able to undercut the UK industry. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said “there is little in this deal to benefit British farmers.”
Last year, The International Trade Committee, made up of cross-party British MPs tasked with analysing the agreement, cautioned that while tariff reductions on processed food and drink may benefit consumers, they are unlikely to make a noticeable difference at supermarket checkouts.
Products such as Australian wines could become cheaper by just a few pence.
The committee further pointed out that the UK Government had failed to secure protection for the names of iconic UK food and drink exports, such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Scotch whisky, Welsh lamb and Irish cream liqueur. As a result, it remains legal in Australia to impersonate these products.
On Tuesday, British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell said that the deal is expected to return to the House of Commons from the House of Lords “by March 12th or 13th, where it would need another two or three weeks to pass.”
Further debate could delay the process, Treadell added.
“Once both countries having completed their parliamentary processes… it should come into effect pretty soon afterwards.”
The deal will come into force 30 days after both parties notify each other of parliamentary ratification or on another mutually agreed date.
When all is agreed, the free trade deal will “remove most tariffs on trade between the UK and Australia”, while the UK market “for some agricultural goods will also be opened to Australia more gradually”, according to House of Commons documents.
Other provisions in the deal cover digital trade, public procurement and intellectual property.
The FTA will also make is possible for UK citizens aged under 35 to travel and work in Australia more easily.