The British and Australian Prime Ministers have virtually signed a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries. The UK government says that it will “unlock £10.4 billion of additional trade”, but the agreement has come under criticism from UK farmers who believe that its removal of tariffs will undermine domestic farming.
The agreement, the first UK trade deal with a new partner nation since Brexit, will gradually remove tariffs on lamb and beef over the course of 10 years, and aims to remove tariffs entirely on 99% of Australian exports. The deal also includes measures to make it easier for UK and Australian citizens to stay and work in either nation, although Australian unions argue that this will allow companies to advertise work to labourers overseas without advertising to local labourers first.
UK farmers have argued that domestic farming will be undercut by the importing of meat from Australia. Currently 70% of Australian meat exports go to Asian-Pacific markets. International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, rejected these notions, saying that the gradual removal of the tariffs over 10 years, along with an “overarching safeguard mechanism” would be sufficient to protect the UK industry.
Trevelyan said the agreement was:
“A landmark moment in the historic and vital relationship between our two Commonwealth nations” and that it showed what the UK could achieve as “an agile, independent sovereign trading nation”.
Other criticisms of the agreement have pointed out the projected growth, due to the agreement, for the UK economy is just 0.08%, compared to the 4% decrease following Brexit, and this even this growth is only expected to be reached by 2035.
The agreement also notably lacks the 1.5 degree temperature pledge that the UK promised to get Australia to agree to at COP26, raising concerns from environmentalist groups, with Greenpeace accusing the agreement of “kicking off a race to the bottom for our environmental standards and for action on climate”.