Consultation on Australia-UK FTA lays out next steps for new deal

Legislation | | MIC Customs Solutions |

How is the future trade deal between the UK and Australia moving forward? Here, we'll take a detailed look at the current situation.

The UK government has published the results of a consultation that is to form the basis of negotiating strategy for the development of a new trade deal with Australia post-Brexit.

It took into account more than 146,000 public opinions from businesses and other stakeholders on everything from tariffs to origin calculation, with the hope being that a free trade agreement can be thrashed out as soon as possible after Britain leaves the European Union.

Background in trade with Australia

The UK has already signed a number of continuity agreements to ensure uninterrupted trade, including those with Switzerland, Israel, Chile and the Faroe Islands, among others.

However, an early priority for Britain is negotiating a comprehensive FTA with Australia to cement the existing bilateral partnership and ensure UK-Australia trade - worth £15.3 billion in 2018 - can continue unabated.

Both nations have already committed to seeking a new FTA, having established a Joint Trade Working Group in 2016 to scope out the parameters and signed a mutual recognition agreement ahead of Brexit.

The UK is Australia's eighth-largest trading partner and total trade between the UK and Australia was worth over £850 million on average in the five years to 2017.

Evidence from the consultation will now inform the British government's approach to future trading with Australia.

Points raised in the consultation

Among the key points and concerns raised in the consultation process were:

• There could be benefits from lowering or removing tariffs with Australia, but some industries - such as agriculture - may gain from maintaining existing tariffs.

• An FTA should not negatively impact UK producers and businesses through increased competition.

• Protection measures should be included so the market would not be flooded with cheap imports.

• The regulatory and administrative burden of product certification should be reduced.

• Cost-effective customs procedures should be in place to ensure the operation of trade is not interrupted.

Next steps

Secretary of state for international trade Dr Liam Fox said the government will now carefully consider the issues raised.

"The government will continue to promote the benefits of free trade, raise public awareness on trade and inform consumers and businesses about the opportunities that reducing barriers to trade can bring, alongside the broader economic and social welfare gains," he added.

An Australia-UK FTA could remove some of the barriers to trade and modernise the rules governing it to ensure a system fit for the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Australia's government is no doubt also looking into what its best interests will be in terms of a post-Brexit deal with Britain.

Both sides will likely be hoping they can come to a mutually beneficial agreement that boosts their economies and guarantees fair and simple trade for all going forward.