UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement

United Kingdom-Australia free Trade Agreement

Negotiations  for a UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement were launched in June, 2020  and continue in 2021 following the UK Brexit agreement with the EU..  

The AFTINET submission  is here..

Australia is seeking more market access for its agricultural and services exports, and the danger is that longer medicine monopolies or other negative deregulatory concessions may be traded off to gain these. The UK is also seeking to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) which is being used as a model by both governments, and includes Investor rights to sue governments  (ISDS). In June 2O21 the two governments announced an agreement in principle and confirmed that ISDS has been excluded.  This was a victory for  community campaigning. The full text will not be released until after signing, which may be by the end of 2021.

The  agenda is dominated by corporate interests and key issues of concern are:

  •  Pharmaceutical companies may push  for longer monopolies for data protection on biologic medicines.   This  is one of the demands made by the EU negotiators when the UK was part of the EU. The UK may retain the push for the  EU standard of 10 years  of data protection (Australia has five years). 
  • Restricting regulation of essential services The trade in services chapter is likely to be modelled on services chapters the CPTPP agreement which open most services to foreign investment and restrict new government regulation of services. For example, it could prevent regulation of energy services in response to climate change or prevent improvements in staffing levels in aged care or childcare. It could also stop governments from regulating to fix privatisation failures, as have occurred in vocational education services and privatise hospitals.
  • E-Commerce rules to suit the needs of global digital companies and restrict governments from regulating them. The UK may have less privacy protections than the EU, and may push for lower standards. In the wake of Facebook and other data abuse scandals, we need stronger privacy and other protections for consumers. Some proposed e-commerce rules also reinforce the global dominance of existing digital companies.
  • The UK may want greater market access for its global firms to Australian government procurement. When the UK was an EU member, the EU signalled in its conditions for the WTO Government Procurement Agreement that it wants to remove Australian provisions that allow federal and state governments to give preference for government procurement contracts to local SMEs. This Is extremely serious as it is this provision which has enabled state governments to give preference to local steel and other products. The danger is that the Australian government will trade this off for agricultural market access. It is not clear whether the UK will pursue this in the separate agreement. 
  • Enforceable labour rights and environmental standards.  The UK has said it supports clauses on labour rights and environmental standards (including reduced carbon emissions),  and other social clauses, but they may not be  fully enforceable in the same way as other chapters in the agreement..

Updated  September  2021.

Publication of Australia-UK FTA Agreement in Principle and exclusion of ISDS welcome, but still much we don’t know

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                            

June 18, 2021

“We welcome the fact that the Australian and UK governments have responded to community concerns about secrecy and yesterday published the Agreement in-Principle (AIP) for the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement,” Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET Convenor, said today.

UK Australia FTA announcement hides possible nasties on corporate rights and medicine monopolies in secret deal

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                            

June 15, 2021

“The announcement of ‘in-principle’ agreement for an Australia-UK free trade agreement continues the unacceptable government secrecy about the details of the agreement,” Dr Patricia Ranald, AFTINET Convenor said today.

Final UK FTA talks on corporate rights to sue governments alarm community groups

MEDIA RELEASE, May 31, 2021

“The British Trade Minister has confirmed that corporate rights to sue governments are being discussed in the final negotiations for the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement before an announcement at the G7 meeting in the UK on June 11-13. This is unacceptable and will fuel community opposition to the deal in both Australia and the UK,“ Dr Patricia Ranald, Convenor of the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network said today.

UK pressures Australia for carbon reductions in FTA talks as EU and US ponder carbon levies

February 12, 2021: Both new US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are headlining their determination to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But Australia’s Morrison government is declaring that it will fight any proposal to impose border carbon levies, including in the current UK-Australia and EU-Australia Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

Australian, New Zealand and British Unions warn against bad proposals in UK trade deal

September 23, 2020: As former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott now advises the British government in its trade negotiations with the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, the trade unions from the three countries have issued a united call for decent work and high standards of health,  environment and public services.

UK and Japan agree on trade deal that opens door for Britain to join the CPTPP

September 15, 2020: British trade Secretary Liz Truss and Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu agreed in principle on September 11 to a free trade agreement, the UK’s first major trade deal as an independent trading nation.

The UK sees this deal forming a pathway to further market access under the 11-nation Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP), which Japan will support as part of the agreement.