Trade deal with Australia in the offing for the UK
The UK and Australia have reached consensus on the vast majority of elements of a comprehensive free trade agreement.
Both countries are confident that the remaining issues will be resolved, and will now enter a sprint to agree the outstanding details with the aim of reaching agreement in principle by June.
International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, said:“We have made major breakthroughs over the past few days and an agreement is now in sight.
“This is a deal that will deliver for Britain and all parts of our economy. It is a win-win for both nations. It is a fundamentally liberalising agreement that will support jobs across the country and help us emerge stronger from the pandemic, strengthening ties between two democracies who share a fierce belief in freedom, enterprise and fair play.
“We will spend the next few weeks ironing out details and resolving outstanding issues, with a view to reaching a deal by June.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, the trade secretary confirmed that food and drink products will constitute a significant element of future trading relationships between the UK and Australia
She added that food from Australia must conform with the production and animal welfare standards demanded of British farmers.
Specific reference was made on the programme to the potential for Australia to export significant quantities of lamb and sheep meat to the UK, once a final trade deal had been reached.
Commenting on these developments, a National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales (NFU) spokesperson said:“It’s good to hear that progress is being made in these important trade negotiations with Australia, and we hope the government is sticking to its guns in securing important safeguards for UK farmers.
“Government must be clear in the discussions that preferential access through the lowering of tariffs is accompanied by strong safeguards that mean imports meet our own high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection. Access to our valuable home food market must also be reciprocal, with access for great British food exports in return - not just in terms of removing tariffs, but also by removing those technical and non-tariff barriers that currently prevent UK producers selling into the Australian market.
“It’s also vital that government takes into account specific sensitivities of some sectors such as upland livestock producers who play an important cultural, social and economic role in our rural communities. Having promised to level up such areas, this commitment must not be undermined by trade deals that extinguish those farmers’ livelihoods.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union was asked to comment on this matter but said that it would reserve comment until after the trade deal between the UK and Australia had been finalised.