UK govt agrees terms for Australia trade deal

Industry News | | MIC Customs Solutions |

The UK government is set to offer Australia an FTA that will see tariffs and quotas removed over a period of 15 years.


The UK government has agreed the terms of the free trade agreement (FTA) proposal it is set to offer Australia, with the aim being to phase out tariffs completely over the next 15 years.

The planned deal would see quotas on trade between the two countries also being removed over the same period.

However, the plans have not been without controversy, as it has been reported prime minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet was split over the issue, with some ministers said to be concerned about the impact a zero-tariff, zero-quota arrangement would have on sectors such as agriculture.

Farming groups have warned that, in their current state, the terms could lead to cheap Australian imports of products such as meat undercutting domestic alternatives. This could put small UK producers out of business as they would be unable to compete with larger Australian suppliers.

The National Farmers' Union therefore called for the UK government to take steps to ensure domestic producers are protected under any FTA. 

President of the group Minette Batters said: "If we're to open up the opportunities of new markets overseas for UK farmers, we will have to offer greater access to our own markets in return. However, this trade-off needs to be balanced, and we need to make sure concessions to our hugely valuable home market are not given away lightly."

She added it is "wholly irresponsible" for the government to sign a trade deal that includes no tariffs or quotas on sensitive products.

However, the government is hoping that the 15-year timeframe for removing tariffs will assuage these concerns and is eager to get the deal done as soon as possible. It has been suggested Mr Johnson is aiming to announce an agreement in principle at next month's G7 summit in Cornwall.

In 2019-20, trade between Australia and the UK was worth £20.1 billion, and a new FTA should help increase this significantly.

The BBC noted that at present, the biggest exports from Australia to the UK are metals, wine and machinery, while its main UK imports are cars, medicines and alcoholic beverages.