The UK government is expected to announce it has agreed a trade deal with Australia this morning (15 June).
The two countries have been talking about a tariff-free agreement for some time and discussions between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison continued during and after last week’s G7 summit in England.
According to UK broadcaster the BBC, the two countries have now agreed the “broad terms” of a trade deal with a formal announcement of the terms imminent.
The deal, however, is not without its critics, with UK farming groups concerned that they will be undercut by cheaper meat being imported from Down Under. They have also highlighted what they see as a food standards disparity as farmers in Australia are allowed to use some hormone growth promoters, pesticides and feed additives that are banned in the UK.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters said last month: “The British government faces a choice. It must recognise that opening up zero-tariff trade on all imports of products such as beef and lamb means British farming, working to its current high standards, will struggle to compete.”
The UK, which can agree trade deals unilaterally now that it is no longer a member of the European Union, may well see an agreement with Australia as a first step towards joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement.
The BBC points out that the UK government has signed a long list of trade deals over the past year, but they have been rollovers of those the UK already had as part of the EU, whereas the Australia deal has been agreed from scratch.
In 2019-20, trade in goods and services between Australia and the UK was valued at GBP20.1bn (US$28.36bn) with wine being a major export from Australia. Trade in meat between the two countries is small, with 0.15% of all Australian beef exports going to the UK and 14% of sheep meat imports to the UK coming from Australia.
Just Food has asked the NFU and UK food-manufacturing trade body, The Food and Drink Federation, for their response to the news a trade deal announcement is imminent.