After the European Union, Japan and Norway, the United Kingdom on Tuesday June 15 concluded a post-Brexit trade agreement with Australia, which should open the doors to the Asia-Pacific region, despite the concerns of breeders British. It is the first agreement obtained by London that is not simply a renewal or adaptation of those that exist between the European Union (EU) and other countries.
This free trade agreement offers “Fantastic opportunities for UK businesses and consumers”, enthused Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a 10 Downing Street press release, once again touting his concept of “Planetary Britain”, namely the international influence of the United Kingdom after leaving the EU. Beyond trade, the two countries want to cooperate more on security, climate change or technology.
No customs duties
The agreement is expected to be published in the next few days before being signed. It will allow all British goods to enter Australia duty free, and will benefit the automotive industry, Scotch whiskey, biscuits and ceramics. Trade between the two countries represented 13.9 billion pounds in 2020 (16.1 billion euros), a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and this amount should now grow, assures London. The UK was also Australia’s fifth largest trading partner in 2019.
The deal is to protect British farmers, who worried about competition from Australian products, such as beef and lamb, with more flexible health standards, the statement said. The agricultural component had even created tensions even in the British government, between the ministers of international trade and agriculture. Finally, there is a limit on imports on British soil without customs duties for fifteen years, in particular through quotas. The government also wants to help British agricultural producers find other export outlets, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
Before the announcement of the agreement, Michael Gove, minister responsible for coordinating government action, sought Tuesday to reassure the agricultural world. “The majority of Australian products go to Asia, it is their closest market” and “The proportion of Australian meat that is likely to arrive in the UK is going to be a fairly small part of their overall production”, he insisted on the BBC. “We’re going to keep our standards high when it comes to things like hormonal beef and chicken.” [lavé] with chlorine “, he added, to consumers.
The agreement also includes a section on the movement of people, and will allow Britons under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia more freely.
Opening the doors to the Pacific
London hopes that this agreement with Australia will more easily open the doors to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (or CPTPP, for Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, in English), which brings together 11 countries in America and Asia. At the beginning of June, they authorized the United Kingdom to initiate the procedure to join this vast free trade area. Announcement of the day “Shows what we can accomplish as a sovereign trading nation”, welcomes Liz Truss, Minister of International Trade.
The UK has already secured agreements with the European Union, by far its largest trading partner, Japan and, more recently, Norway. It is in discussion with India and New Zealand. Negotiations are planned with Canada and Mexico.
London still expects to secure a trade agreement with the United States, although progress seems meager for the time being. It was not mentioned in the reports of the meeting between Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden on Thursday on the eve of the G7 in Cornwall (south-west of England).