' UK-Australia trade talks reaching ‘turning point’ with hopes high for agreement' by Bevan Shields, The Age
London: New rules for the free flow of professionals and young people between Australia and Britain are being thrashed out during crunch free trade negotiations which Trade Minister Dan Tehan believes have reached “a turning point”.
Tehan said he did not want to fly back to Australia empty handed when two days of talks with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss wrap up in London on Friday night local-time, raising fresh expectations that a draft deal is close to completion.
“It’s a big commitment to fly across the world, to come here for two days and head back into two weeks of quarantine,” Tehan said.
“So I’m very keen to make sure we make as much progress as we possibly can.”
But he warned of lingering tensions over how much access Australian farmers will get to the UK’s post-Brexit market and said there were also unresolved questions over the changes needed to make it easier for professionals like accountants, lawyers and architects to move between both countries for work.
“We’d like to see as much as possible the free flow of people in the professional services space,” Tehan said. “Youth mobility is another area that we’re looking at.”
Asked whether Britain was to blame for delayed progress on the issue, Tehan said: “I don’t think it’s a sense of them pushing back on it, I think they too want to see the free movement of people. It’s a matter of how you make these arrangements.
“These are things which I think are eminently doable and we can work through them but they do have some sensitivities that both of us have to work through.”
A failure to mutually recognise professional qualifications is seen as a non-tariff barrier to trade; so too is unnecessary licensing and red tape which both sides hope to clear away in the new agreement.
The deal will include access to special visas for professionals, with potential for fast-tracked applications and approvals.
The Youth Mobility Visa, which allows young Australians to spend up to two years working in the UK, could also be tweaked to give more graduates the chance to spend time in Britain before turning 30. The visa’s expiry period could be extended, or people may be able to use it more than once, depending on their employment status.
Tehan’s predecessor Simon Birmingham last year ruled out expanding the post-Brexit trade pact to include visa-free work and travel between Australia and the UK as once advocated by Johnson.
The UK is Australia’s eighth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $26.9 billion in 2018. Britain is also the second-largest source of total foreign investment in Australia.
The impacts of the deal will be relatively small: British government documents show it could lift UK GDP by 0.02 per cent, or £500 million ($911 million).
However Johnson’s government desperately needs to seal the trade deal to prove to voters that leaving the European Union has allowed the UK to pursue its own economic independence.
Plans are well advanced for the deal to be formally signed when Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the UK in June for the G7 summit of world leaders.
Tehan laughed off a newspaper report that quoted an ally of Truss deriding the visiting Australian minister as “inexperienced” and responsible for “glacially slow” progress on the new pact.
The unnamed ally claimed Truss planned to sit Tehan in an uncomfortable chair for nine hours to extract concessions.
“Liz rang me last night and apologised for the article and I accepted her apology,” Tehan said
“It was very gracious of her to do so. And I’ve been knocked out playing Australian Rules Football so the idea that I’d be intimidated by an uncomfortable chair I found rather quaint.”
Tehan said an assessment of the economic benefits for Australia was not yet completed.
The article was written by Bevan Shields, The Age. Click here to read the original article.