UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement

United Kingdom-Australia free Trade Agreement

Negoititations 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.

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

  • 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 January 2021.

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.

UK – Japan trade deal hints at agenda for proposed UK-Australia FTA

August 12, 2020: The Japanese Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, and the UK Trade Secretary, Liz Truss met in person in London last week to finalise the proposed UK-Japan Free Trade Agreement, Media reports said that the major issues were settled and Secretary Truss expected the deal to be finalised by the end of August. The UK also wants FTAs with the EU, Australia, the USA, and New Zealand.