UK and Australia to start planning free trade deal

Jake Cordell
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The UK could be celebrating if it lines up a bonza free trade deal with Australia
The UK could be celebrating if it lines up a bonza free trade deal with Australia (Source: Getty)

The UK and Australia will start to lay the groundwork for a sweeping free trade deal ahead of the UK's formal exit from the EU.

At an event in London this evening, trade secretary Liam Fox and his Australian counterpart Steven Ciobo announced the creation of a "bilateral trade working group" to shape out the details of what a future tie-up would look like.

The duo said the group would start working towards an "ambitious and comprehensive Australia-UK free trade agreement ... to generate new trade and investment opportunities."

The announcement follows comments from Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the weekend's G20 summit, where he unequivocally committed Australia to striking a "very strong" deal with the UK following the EU referendum.

Read more: The outlook for non-EU trade deals

Fox and Ciobo said: "This initiative reflects a strong political commitment by Australia and the UK to take a leadership role in advocating for global trade liberalisation and reform."

However, the step forward does not constitute the beginning of formal trade negotiations - which the UK is technically prohibited from entering into while it is still a member of the EU. They will only begin once the UK has left the EU, Fox and Ciobo suggested.

"We want the working group to advance an agenda that will ensure the expeditious transition to free trade agreement negotiations when the UK has formally completed its negotiations to exit the EU," said the pair.

The group will be made up of senior officials from the UK and Australia and will meet with trade ministers in flagship summits twice a year, with the first taking place early next year in Australia.

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