07 Jun

'Allies in fair trade, we share historic bond of friendship' Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, in The Australian

No matter how hard things have been, the UK and Australia have stuck together. We have been there for each other in our darkest hours, with our unshakeable bond driving us onward to better days.

Coronavirus has wreaked unprecedented damage to our economies and changed the way we live. But our like-minded democracies stand united by our fierce belief in free and fair trade as the fuel for our ongoing recovery and future prosperity.

Our trading relationship is deep and longstanding, with the UK once Australia’s foremost trading partner. We left some of our oldest allies behind when joining the European Common Market in the 1970s, but now is our chance to right this historic wrong.

As a newly independent trading nation once again, the UK is fully embracing like-minded allies such as Australia. I have great affection for your nation and admire your principled stand as a great pro-trade champion against pernicious practices from the likes of China.

I know from meeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison during my last visit to Australia how true a friend we have. Although pouring rain greeted me on arrival, that made me feel right at home – and I look forward to the day when I can return.

I am proud that Australia was one of the first countries we spoke to about a trade deal. After nearly a year of negotiations, I hope we will soon be able to make history by agreeing the first-ever trade deal negotiated by the UK and another country from scratch since we left the EU. This is testament to the work of our dedicated negotiators so far, as well as the energy of my counterpart, Dan Tehan, and Australia’s high commissioner to the UK, my friend George Brandis.

A deal would bring us together as natural partners: like-minded democracies who believe in freedom, fairness and high standards in areas such as food and animal welfare. Together, we can stand up for rules-based trade against those who threaten to undermine it with pernicious practices such as unfair subsidies.

It would take our trading relationship, already worth almost $35 billion, to new heights. It would also take UK investment in Australia, worth over $67 billion, to the next level. These numbers show how much we do through trade and investment to drive job creation and economic growth – and how this deal could benefit us.

A deal would power an exports-led recovery by making it easier for our brilliant businesses to sell more of their goods and services abroad. This agreement would serve as a gateway toward joining Australia in one of the world’s most dynamic trading areas. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership will unite us with 10 other economies under this high-standards pact. Together, we will strengthen this considerable bulwark against unfair trade practices.

Businesses are already eager to make the most of their exporting potential. Recently, I visited British gin producer Mason’s in Yorkshire. It knows that a deal would mean no longer having to pay tariffs on the crateloads of high-end gin it ships to Australia, which will leave it more money to invest in its future.

UK exports of food and drink to Australia surged by 26.5 per cent over 2016-2020, which shows the growing appetite for iconic British products This deal would give Aussies even more reason to snap up food and drink such as Glenmorangie Scotch whisky and Mr Kipling cakes, while Brits enjoy more of Australia’s world-class wine and treats such as TimTams.

The tariffs we can cut on hundreds of products would make them better value, whether it is a car made by Jaguar Land Rover or a Brompton bicycle.

We are going above and beyond to support the industries that will define our future, as we are focused on negotiating a deal that would be among the most advanced in the world for digital trade – more ambitious than anything else we have agreed with any other partner.

As the world’s second-largest exporter of services, the UK has so much to offer Australia, from the City of London’s lawyers to Edinburgh’s insurers and Cardiff’s accountants. Collaboration between the UK and Australia has already produced iconic results – it was British engineers, after all, who helped build the Sydney Opera House. I know there is more we can do in the future, that is why we are working flat-out on a package that will help our services sectors go further and faster.

At this critical time, the UK and Australia can send a powerful signal that the best way forward for us all lies in free and fair trade.

Together, we can demonstrate our readiness to lead the world as great trading nations.

Liz Truss is the UK’s International Trade Secretary.

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