17 Dec

Australia and UK Sign Historic Free Trade Agreement

The Australian British Chamber of Commerce the peak Australia UK business group fully supports the terms and intent of the FTA and encourages businesses to step up and make the most of it.

17 December 2021 (Adelaide, South Australia) - Today saw the announcement of the Australia/UK Free Trade Agreement (AUKFTA). The AUKFTA is a significant and important step in the continued growth and prosperity of Australia.

The removal of tariffs for 99% of Australian goods to the UK (~$9.2 billion by value) is the most obvious positive example. However, while tariffs rightly attract attention, perhaps as important, are cross-sector provisions that will enable a broad base of businesses to trade more freely, including provisions to enable mobility of people, digital trade, and investment. Amongst those which will reap the benefits will be the already vibrant services sectors, which generate almost 70% of Australian GDP, and employ ~80% of Australians, and where the UK is Australia’s 3rd largest services trading partner. 

David McCredie OBE, the CEO of the Australian British Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of 25,000 businesses engaged in trade and investment across the two countries, said:

“The potential impact is huge. This Free Trade Agreement is one of the most partnerial and ambitious agreements signed by Australia and reflects the strength of historical and ongoing trading ties between the two nations. While we have all heard of the impact on agriculture and trade, our members and I are hugely encouraged by the provisions which address issues of skilled and experienced workers, the growing need to address digital aspects and the potential for cross-border investment.”

The Chamber is also pleased that the respective negotiation teams have heard the input from our members through this process. Our members’ number one priority was mobility of people, which has been an inhibitor for Australia to access the skills it needs in key positions and specialist areas. The FTA changes to visa rules, processing and age limits have been well received and supported. That importance has been increased over the last 18 months, when many companies have been starved of new and experienced talent for their expanding needs. Our members plan to use these changes to bolster local capability in critical areas of shortage such as Digital, Technical, Engineering, etc., as well as seeking opportunities for bi-lateral skills swaps.

Mr. McCredie said:

“The opportunity for the sharing of skills and capabilities should not be underestimated. Brain circulation, where Australians are working and living in the UK to develop skills in areas where Britain is ahead and bring those skills home and vice versa enriches the capabilities of both nations. This includes areas important both to business and the community such as renewable energy, health and infrastructure development.”

Digital trade was another priority area for our members and those changes will have far-reaching impacts in most sectors, particularly with the liberalisation of data flows, e-trade and the commitment to establish cross-border digital identity frameworks. Additionally, the investment provisions will make it easier for capital to flow both ways, with FIRB thresholds for UK-originated investment raised and requirements eased for Australian companies expanding into the UK—given the UK is Australia’s 2nd largest investor and the UK is Australia’s 2nd largest destination for Australian investment, this is critical.

Mr. McCredie said:

“We were delighted that agreement has re-enforced the partnership approach to trade and investment, through a chapter on innovation and ongoing FTA development. This will promote innovation in trade and make it more likely that the FTA will remain current, as regulatory approaches, supply chains and technology continue to evolve. This agreement could not have happened without the efforts of a number of motivated individuals and we are grateful to Secretary of State The Rt Hon Anne-Maree Trevelyan and Minister The Hon Dan Tehan for completing this deal. It is important to thank also Elisabeth Bowes and Vivien Life the two Chief Negotiators and their teams as well, as Senator Simon Birmingham and The Rt Hon Liz Truss who kicked off the negotiations 18 months ago.

We and our members believe the timing and the tenor of this agreement creates significant opportunities for businesses in both countries. We look forward to helping our members capitalise and increase the value and quality of trade between our two nations.”

For media enquiries:

David McCredie OBE, Chief Executive Officer, The Australian British Chamber of Commerce

M:  0450 735 435

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