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 continued in 2021 following the UK Brexit agreement with the EU.  

The initial  2020 AFTINET submission  is here.

Australia was 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 was not released until after it was signed on December 17, 2021.

AFTINET's initial  media release after the text was released called for an independent assessment for the costs and benefits of the economic, environmental, health and gender impacts of the agreement, 

AFTINET has analysed the 32 chapters  of the text and made a submission to the review by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.


Key recommendations include:

  • Comprehensive independent economic, environmental, health and gender impact assessments should be completed and made public before the enabling legislation and ratification of the A-UKFTA.
  • Australia should ensure that any regional trade deals that may include the UK (for example, the CPTPP) should maintain the A-UKFTA’s exclusion of corporate rights to sue governments (ISDS).
  • The Environment and Labour Chapters should be strengthened to ensure they are just as legally enforceable as other chapters.
  • All commitments on labour rights, modern slavery and gender discrimination should be made hard commitments that are legally enforceable.
  • Increased commitments made on trade in services and government procurement that could undermine government’s ability to regulate in the public interest should be reviewed and removed
  • The entry of temporary workers should be based on the principle that they address genuine labour shortages evidenced by local labour market testing. Therefore, the government should revoke the removal of labour market testing for uncapped numbers of certain types of workers.

AFTINET impacts Parliamentary Reports on the A-UK FTA and India agreement: legislation passed

November 22, 2022: Enabling legislation for the Australia-UK FTA (AUKFTA) and the Interim Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AIECTA) was tabled in parliament on October 27 and was passed on November 22. The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) Report on the AUKFTA was tabled on November 17 and the Interim India JSCOT Report on November 18, leaving  little time for them to be considered by parliament. The government made statements urging the quick passage of the legislation. Both reports recommended in favour of the enabling legislation, but they reflected some of AFTINET’s concerns. See our JSCOT submissions here and here.

Our preference was for these issues to be addressed before the enabling legislation, but failing this we have asked the government to address these issues in the reviews of the AUKFTA which are scheduled in the next two years, and in the negotiations for a more comprehensive Economic and Trade Cooperation Agreement with India which is due to be negotiated next year.

Transform Trade reports expose British companies suing developing countries

Thursday October 13, 2022: The UK-based Transform Trade - People centred trade report and its associated legal research report – Foreign Investment, Human Rights and the Climate in the UK – Asymmetric Legal Protection – hit two powerful themes – people’s action is transforming international trade and can do much more; and British law enables British corporations to cruelly exploit ISDS in bilateral investment agreements for super profits.

Trade Minister Farrell appears to pre-empt JSCOT review of Australia – UK FTA

September 5, 2022: Labor’s Trade Minster Senator Don Farrell declared over the weekend that he wanted the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (A-UK FTA) ratified by the end of the year, despite the fact that the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) is yet to review it, and Labor is yet to test it against its own trade policy.

UK FTA faces UK popular opposition and legal challenge over secrecy and lack of consultation

July 20, 2022 :New polling commissioned by UK groups Trade Justice Movement and Global Justice Now has found that 78 per cent of Britons want MPs to debate the pros and cons of new trade deals before they come into force. The House of Commons trade committee has requested the Trade Minister for a full debate before ratification, and criticised its inability to scrutinise the deal properly. This followed an independent report from the Trade and Agriculture Commission  confirming that the trade deal will affect employment in the farm and food sectors and could lower environmental, food safety, and animal welfare standards.