Australia begins free-trade talks with United Kingdom

Australia begins free-trade agreement talks with United Kingdom

Politics
OPPORTUNITIES: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the UK FTA would be a big win for the nation. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

OPPORTUNITIES: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the UK FTA would be a big win for the nation. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

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Australia would be looking to secure better market access for its export goods, especially in agriculture.

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AUSTRALIA has officially begun negotiating a free-trade agreement with the United Kingdom, the Trade Minister has revealed.

Simon Birmingham made the announcement on Wednesday and said Australia would be looking to secure better market access for its export goods, especially in agriculture.

Recent agreements have seen the two countries become closer trading partners, however they were not allowed to start free-trade negotiations until the UK had formally left the European Union (EU) earlier this year.

Mr Birmingham said there was "no doubt" Australia was a causality of the UK's entry into the EU economic community nearly half a century ago.

"In 1973, the UK was third largest two-way trade partner, now it is our 12th," he said.

"UK consumers turned away from Australia produce when high tariffs and low quotes were imposed as a result of their membership of the EU."

Although Mr Birmingham doesn't expect a return to the huge volume of trade flowing between the two countries in the 1970s, there was "definitely room for upside".

"Take for example Australian wine - one in five bottles of wine sold in the UK is Australian wine," he said.

"But we've reached that point of success in the UK market while consumers pay a tariff. They don't pay a tariff on French, Italian or Spanish wines.

"If we can eliminate that tariff, that's going to either mean our winemakers can get a bigger margin and enjoy a greater profit or that they can be even more competitive."

Australia also begun FTA negotiations with the EU earlier this year.

"I don't have an favoured child in that regard, I want to love them both equally," Mr Birmingham joked.

"Hopefully we might see a bit of competitive tension in that mix of running them both at the same time.

"We would love them to be concluded this year. Ultimately they will be completed when it's a good deal that is in our best interest."

Although the EU was a much bigger market, Mr Birmgham said that did not lessen the significant opportunities the a UK deal would reap.

"[The UK] has 67 million people, it's a G20 country, it's got a bigger economy than ours," he said.

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