House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


Treaties Joint Committee; Report

10:59 am

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) Share this | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to speak on this Report 201: free trade agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For those who may not know, I had the great honour of negotiating this free trade agreement with the United Kingdom with Liz Truss and then Anne-Marie Trevelyan. It is a very, very good free trade agreement for Australia. I welcome the fact that the committee has looked at this agreement and has recommended that it come into force as a treaty.

As the report clearly outlines, there are significant aspects of the Australia-UK FTA for Australia. Some of these are detailed in section 2.14:

      less red tape when you export.

        That's so we can rebuild and strengthen those people-to-people links, especially amongst young Brits and young Australians, which is incredibly important to keep building that wonderful special relationship we have with the UK.

            Not only will we see those people-to-people links strengthened; you'll also see those business-to-business links strengthened with the mutual recognition of qualifications, making it easier for people to travel between the two countries to work.

                This is making sure that our young, dynamic, smaller businesses can benefit from this.

                  a unique aspect of this free trade agreement.

                    once again, components new to FTAs.

                      If our countries are going to continue to build and strengthen an economic relationship for the next century, then having this Strategic Innovation Dialogue will be absolutely critical for that.

                      But it's not just Australia that will benefit from this free trade agreement; it's also the UK that will benefit from this. The report details this as well. It's worth remembering that free trade agreements aren't about winners and losers; they're about everyone winning, and this agreement is absolutely true to that. For the UK, there is:

                                        So there are wins for Australia and wins for the UK, and overall both our countries benefit. There are numerous ways that we do that. We benefit because we send a strong signal to the rest of the world that free trade, liberalising your economies, strengthens those economies, strengthens links across the world. If we are to continue to see our economies grow, especially as we come out of the pandemic that we've been through, in this post-pandemic period, making sure that we continue to liberalise is absolutely crucial. One of the things that we're seeing around the world—and it came out of the pandemic—is a push for greater protectionism. That is not in the interests of Australia and it's not in the interests of the UK, especially now that the UK have come out of the EU.

                                        What this agreement does above all else is make sure that those economic links between our two economies will now continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Those of us with long enough memories remember what happened when the UK entered the EU in the early seventies. It cut itself off economically from Australia, and that caused a lot of hardship, especially in the Australian agricultural sector. But this agreement rights that wrong and, in particular, will provide access for Australia's agricultural sector the like of which it hasn't seen since before the early seventies—access for our beef, our lamb, our sugar producers, our dairy producers, our rice growers. I'll just give you one example of how this will benefit both countries. We will now be able to ship sugar out of Queensland across to the UK, up the Thames to a sugar mill where they will turn that sugar into products such as golden syrup—adding manufacturing value in the UK, adding export value here in Australia. It is a true win-win outcome.

                                        This negotiation was difficult because it was done during the pandemic. That meant that the normal consultations and negotiations that you would undertake, especially in face-to-face meetings, couldn't take place. I just place on the record again the wonderful job that Australian negotiators and UK negotiators did in finalising this free trade agreement. I think that here in Australia we have the best trade negotiators in the world, and we must ensure that we continue to empower them and give them jobs so that we can continue to push for liberalisation. With their negotiating skills, we're always going to get good outcomes. I give a big shout-out to the UK negotiators too, because, as part of the EU, the UK didn't have a trade negotiation department or section, and so they had to, from the ground up, build a negotiation capability. They were able to build that up from scratch and make sure that we got an outcome which benefits both countries. I also give a big shout-out to Liz Truss, the UK trade minister, with whom I negotiated the interim deal—which basically was the framework that we then made sure was recognised and respected in the final agreement—and to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, with whom I sat down and dotted the i's and crossed the t's and made sure that what had been agreed in principle was finalised correctly in the final product.

                                        This is an excellent free trade agreement. It's the best free trade agreement we have negotiated since our negotiations with New Zealand. It will set both countries up for the future. I'll finish on this note, because it's incredibly important. It is also going to help the UK with their further economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. It will help them in their accession to the CPTPP. It is in Australia's interests that we see that economic engagement from the UK enhanced in the Indo-Pacific. We will continue to work with the UK to make sure that that accession takes place because a stronger, more economically secure Indo-Pacific is also in our interests. I commend this report to the House.


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