© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on June 14, 2021 on Downing Street in London, UK. REUTERS / Henry Nicholls
By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – The UK and Australia signed a trade deal after talks between their prime ministers resolved outstanding issues, Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Tuesday.
The deal will be Britain’s first trade deal since Brexit and comes as London seeks to build commercial and diplomatic ties in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson overcame sticking points in talks after the Group of Seven meeting in the UK over the weekend, which Morrison attended as a guest.
“Both prime ministers held a positive meeting in London overnight and resolved outstanding issues related to the trade pact,” Tehan said in a statement.
The UK is Australia’s eighth largest trading partner with A $ 26.9 billion (US $ 20.7 billion) in bilateral trade. Before Great Britain joined what was then the European Common Market in 1973, Great Britain was Australia’s most lucrative trading market.
A formal announcement will be made later on Tuesday, Tehan said.
The deal will be scrutinized by UK farmers who fear they could be forced out of business if the deal removes tariffs on lamb and beef imports from Australia.
Australian Trade Minister David Littleproud declined to provide details but said Australian farmers would benefit from the deal.
“Overall, this will be a big win for Australian agriculture,” Littleproud told 4BC Radio
Although details are not yet known, some official estimates say the deal could add £ 500 million ($ 705.7 million) to Britain’s economic output over the long term.
For Australia, however, analysts questioned the importance of an economy already geared towards Asia.
“This free trade agreement is more about symbolism than about tangible material benefits,” said Ben Wellings, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Monash University.
($ 1 = 0.7086 pounds)
($ 1 = 1.2970 Australian dollars)
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