The European Union has stolen a march on the UK in its progress towards securing new free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia and New Zealand.
EU member states have given the green light for talks with Australia and New Zealand to start in the coming weeks, with negotiations likely to be formally launched in Wellington and Canberra at some point in June.
The EU is looking to maximize export opportunities for motor equipment, machinery, chemicals, processed foods and services in these markets, while taking steps to ensure the European agricultural sector is not exposed to harmfully cheap imports.
Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, said: "Together, we will now negotiate win-win trade deals that create new opportunities for our businesses, as well as safeguard high standards in key areas such as sustainable development."
This step puts the EU ahead of the UK in the queue to secure FTAs with Australia and New Zealand, with Britain having identified these markets as prime targets for new trade links.
The UK will not be able to start any negotiations until Brexit comes into effect in March 2019, whereas the EU is looking to complete its talks by October 31st.