19 Jun

'Borders shut but Australia and UK are open for trade' Simon Birmingham, The AFR


As FTA negotiations begin, post-Brexit Britain is now Australia's partner in promoting rules-based global trade.

No Wimbledon, No Olympics, No Best of British at the Comedy Festival.

We’ve had to content ourselves with the sport of Brexit – but it’s had everything a five Test Ashes series in Australia could produce, including going upstairs a few times for some close calls.

As the covers come off and we take to the field, we look to cement the trading relationship with the United Kingdom well up the order.

With the commencement of negotiations on an Australia-UK free trade agreement, we now begin a new chapter on our trade and investment relationship.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we increasingly turn to Australia’s economic recovery. Few could have foreseen the human tragedy and economic devastation the COVID-19 pandemic would inflict on the world.
As history has shown, when Australia and the UK work together, we can achieve much. We have served together, worked together and studied together.

We have worked together to repatriate out citizens and get them home safe. We have worked in the G20 to ensure supply lines remain open in the face of protectionist and nationalist pressures. And our universities and medical laboratories are working together to do all they can to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Together, we must continue to speak out in support of open markets.

It’s no secret that the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1973 put the brakes on the ability of our both our nations to realise the full trade and economic potential of the relationship.

It resulted in UK companies looking across to the EU rather than to countries further away such as Australia. Likewise, UK consumers turned away from Australian products when high tariffs and low quotas were imposed.

Since then, Australia has continued to expand - with great success - trade opportunities for our exporters in the Indo-Pacific region.

Free trade agreements with Japan, South Korea and China, the TPP-11 countries including Vietnam and Mexico, and the agreements with Hong Kong, Peru and Indonesia that have, or in the next few weeks, will enter into force, have all contributed to this economic success. It has helped to underpin 28 consecutive monthly trade surpluses, the latest two of which have been records.

Having more options can only be a good thing for our farmers and businesses, and that’s why we will be seeking improved market access, including for agricultural products, through the elimination wherever possible of tariffs, quotas and non-tariff barriers.

By improving market access for goods, our exporters will have more opportunities and more choices on where they conduct their business. Australian businesses and consumers will also benefit from greater access to competitively-priced goods and services inputs, new technologies and innovative practices.

There are also opportunities for other sectors of our economy. Creating better opportunities for trade in services, a growing part of our economy and a central element of the UK economy, not only makes economic sense but has real potential to take off beyond its current $15 billion value.

Similar opportunities already exist with investment. The UK remains Australia’s second-largest source of foreign investment at $570 billion, but is also the second-largest destination for foreign investment by Australians, valued at more than $400 billion.

We have ambitions that this agreement will deliver modern and comprehensive investment rules that enhance our investment partnership with the UK. And we will seek ambitious commitments that deepen our links in financial, professional and telecommunications services.

We will also seek rules on cutting-edge issues for contemporary business, such as digital trade, which will facilitate bilateral trade across all sectors.

Launching negotiations on a free trade deal with the UK also sends an important signal of our shared commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system.

The future economic success of Australia and the UK is rooted in global trade. Almost two-thirds of Britain’s economy is based on trade, and one in five Australian jobs is trade-related.

Trade liberalisation has driven social advances, productivity and innovation, enabling Australians to enjoy a high standard of living. We must continue to look outwards. With the UK and other like-minded partners, we must continue to resist the temptation to impose measures which restrict trade.

Together, we must continue to speak out in support of open markets. This includes strengthening our co-operation in global forums, such as the G20.

As a result of Brexit we look forward to welcoming the UK as an independent WTO member, working with other like-minded partners to support the rules-based international trading system.

We need to work at improving the system so it remains fit for purpose, building on what has served us well over the last few decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened our resolve to continue looking beyond our shores for new opportunities.

We need to strengthen supply chains and look to trade partners on whom we can rely to provide certainty in uncertain times.

The Australia-UK free trade agreement is an important part of the road to post-COVID economic recovery.


Simon Birmingham is the federal Trade Minister.

This article originally featured in the AFR. Clicl here to view. 


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