Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Questions without Notice
Trade with the United Kingdom
My question is to Senator Payne, the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment. Will the minister please update the Senate on yesterday's historic announcement that Australia and the UK have an in-principle agreement on an FTA, and what does this mean for Australia?
I thank Senator Bragg for his question. It was an historic announcement last night in London between Prime Ministers Morrison and Johnson agreeing to the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, which will deliver more Australian jobs and new opportunities for our exporters. It's going to bring greater access to a larger range of products, greater access for businesses and workers, and more opportunities for Australian producers and farmers in the UK market. It is about creating new opportunities and jobs for business by eliminating tariffs on each other's goods and removing the red tape that slows trade down. It is about enhancing pathways for workers and young people to work in both countries, it is about making it easier for our service companies and professionals to do business in each other's markets, and it is about deepening our already very strong investment ties.
In fact, the Australia-UK FTA is Australia's most ambitious free trade agreement with any country other than New Zealand. Both countries have made commercially significant commitments that will strengthen our diversification and export focused COVID-19 recovery. The ambitious bilateral free trade agreement will also help pave the way for the UK's accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, furthering our cooperation within the CPTPP on a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.
We have sent the world a very strong signal that we are trading nations that believe in democracy, open markets, high standards and the rules-based global trading system. This deal delivers a strong message about the strength and importance of this relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom, and it opens a new chapter in the long and close history between our two nations.
I thank Senator Bragg for his supplementary question. We know that free and open trade will continue to drive economic growth as we emerge from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the coalition government is supporting Australian exporters to compete freely, fairly and securely. In fact, in last month's budget, we also announced significant new support to Australian exporters to ensure they can expand and diversify their markets as widely as possible.
Despite COVID-19, Australia recorded a record trade surplus of $73 billion in 2020, up from $68 billion in 2019. Since this government was elected in 2013, the percentage of our trade covered by FTAs has grown from 26 per cent to what will be 75 per cent once the UK FTA takes effect. We welcome every opportunity to further diversify our exports because, the more diversified your exports are, the better placed you are for the peaks and troughs of global commodity trade. (Time expired)
The Australia-UK FTA will strengthen our post-COVID-19 economic recovery while signalling our very strong commitment to the global trade and international rules-based order. The coalition is working to keep global markets open and trade functioning, including through bodies such as the WTO, the G20 and APEC. We support a strong, effective World Trade Organization, which is why both Minister Tehan and I have met this year with the WTO's new Director-General, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Geneva. Australia is working in close partnership with the WTO. We're leading a Cairns Group effort to tackle distorting domestic support in agriculture. We continue to invest in and advocate for WTO reform to ensure a strong system of rules, to secure the rights of Australian exporters, to provide opportunities for our businesses to grow and to create jobs for the future.