A landmark free-trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom has been heralded as a landmark deal that opens up new opportunities for local exporters, including those seeking lucrative government tenders, while making it easier for Australians to live and work in Britain.
The federal government has described the deal that covers $9.2 billion Australian in exports as the ‘most comprehensive and ambitious free-trade agreement that Australia has concluded, other than with New Zealand’.
“It demonstrates our countries’ commitment to free trade as a driver of economic growth and stronger bilateral relationships,” says Trade Minister Dan Tehan in a joint statement with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“UK businesses will be encouraged to invest in Australia thanks to best practice investment rules, including to set up regional headquarters in Australia to leverage our network of free-trade agreements.”
Among the benefits to Australian businesses will be the elimination of tariffs on more than 99 per cent of goods being exported to the UK, including wine exports which have been hit hard by China’s hard-line stance against Australian imports over the past two years.
About $43 million in annual customs duties will be removed from Australian wine when the agreement enters into force.
The government says professionals will have the same access to the UK’s lucrative jobs market as their European competitors, except from the Republic of Ireland.
“This means Australian job seekers can compete on an equal footing with EU nationals in the UK for the first time in more than 40 years,” says Mr Tehan, who signed the agreement on behalf of Australia during a virtual ceremony with the UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan in Adelaide.
British imports will also be cheaper, saving Australian households and businesses about $200 million a year on items such as cars, whisky, confectionery, biscuits and cosmetics, with tariffs on these items to be phased out within five years.
“Young people will have more time to travel to the UK for a working holiday and will be able to stay longer, with eligibility to participate in working holiday opportunities raised from 30 to 35 years of age, and stays allowed for up to three years in each country,” says Mr Tehan.
Australian primary producers will have better access to more than 65 million UK consumers who value safe, sustainably produced foods and beverages with the strong provenance Australia offers.
A tariff-free quota of 35,000 tonnes of Australian beef will expand to 110,000 tonnes in by the 10th year of the agreement while tariffs on beef will be eliminated entirely after 10 years.
Sheep meet will have an initial tariff-free quota of 25,000 tonnes, expanding to 75,000 in year 10, with tariffs also eliminated after 10 years.
The sugar industry will benefit from a tariff-free quota of 80,000 tonnes initially, expanding to 220,000 tonnes in year eight, after which all tariffs will be removed.
The federal government is aiming to bring the agreement into force in 2022.
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