Official discussions to form a free trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia begin online next week, with many industry bodies expressing their support for improved market access.
The food and beverage industries are seen as being particular features of the bilateral agreement, in addition to working visas for young people. It is hoped that the deal will also reduce red tape for small businesses setting up overseas.
WoolProducers Australia, the red meat sector and the wine industry have all signalled their support for a free trade agreement between the two countries, with a signed deal expected by Christmas.
“This announcement marks a very important step in the continuation of the Australian Government’s ongoing effort to boost Australian agricultural exports, and could not come at a better time as the sector works to recover from Covid-19,” said Tony Battaglene, chief executive of Australian Grape & Wine.
“Australia’s long-standing wine-export relationship with the UK can only be strengthened by this FTA, driving opportunities for Australian grape growers and winemakers to deliver their wines to British consumers.”
“[There is] quite a lot of booze flowing between the UK and Australia,” said Liz Truss, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade.
In 2018, Australia exported $389 million of wine to the UK, representing the largest export market for the industry. In the same year, Australia bought almost $351 million of UK beverages and spirits, most notably whiskey and gin.
Meanwhile, the red meat industry is hoping that the free trade agreement could increase access to the lucrative UK market.
“Whilst an enduring partner, Australia’s beef and sheepmeat access has been limited by virtue of the UK being a member of the EU,” said Andrew McDonald, Chair of the Australia-UK Red Meat Market Access Taskforce.
“Compared with many other countries supplying the EU, Australia has disproportionately low volume quota access coupled with trade prohibitive above quota tariffs. This import regime has stifled Australia’s ability to respond to growing UK consumer demand for high quality beef, sheepmeat and goatmeat.”
Mr McDonald’s sentiment is shared by Cattle Council CEO Travis Tobin who is lobbying for easier access for prime beef cuts.
“Brits were eating Australian beef for decades before joining the EU – they know it’s a good product. For example, more than 100,000 tonnes of beef was shipped to the UK in 1973,” he said.
According to Meat and Livestock Australia, beef exports to the UK in 2018 totalled just 4,395 tonnes.
“[British consumers] demand the world’s best and we lead the world in eating-quality, nutrition and sustainability.”
“Our $19 billion beef business will strengthen long-term food security in the UK. And with 66 million customers, the UK is potentially a big market for Australian producers.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently hailed talks with Australia as a chance for Brits to have access to an Australian icon.
“How long can the British people be deprived of the opportunity to have Tim Tams at a reasonable price?”he asked.
Arnotts responded to the PM by suggesting a line of UK-inspired Tim Tam flavour combinations including scotch eggs, and bangers and mash.