LONDON (AP) — Britain and Australia announced the broad outlines of a free trade deal Tuesday, eliminating tariffs on a wide range of goods as the U.K. seeks to expand links around the world following its exit from the European Union.
The pact is expected to boost exports of traditional British products such as Scotch whisky, while boosting imports of lamb and wine from Australia. The U.K. also hopes the deal will help it join the trans-Pacific trade partnership, which would open the door to increased trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
It is the first trade deal Britain has negotiated from scratch since it left the EU. Earlier deals with countries including Japan and Canada were built on existing agreements struck by the EU.
“This is global Britain at its best – looking outwards and striking deals that deepen our alliances and help ensure every part of the country builds back better from the pandemic,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, discussed the outlines of the deal they reached during talks Monday night in London.
Britain is Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner with two-way goods and services valued at 36.6 billion Australian dollars ($28.2 billion) a year.
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the agreement would create jobs and help businesses.
“British consumers are missing out on choosing high quality, well priced Australian products,” Tehan told the Australian parliament earlier Tuesday. “What’s more, they’re missing out on eating the best lamb chops, the best steak in the world and washing it down with the best glass of Australian wine that you could imagine.”
U.K. farm groups reacted with caution, saying they were waiting to see the details of the agreement. British meat producers have expressed concerns that they wouldn’t be able to compete with cheap imports from Australia.
Johnson’s office defended the deal, saying U.K. farmers would be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years. The government also said it would seek to increase agricultural exports to Asia and the Pacific.
U.K. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said Australian beef imports would be a “pretty small″ portion of U.K. consumption.
“It’s important that we maintain protections and support for farmers, but it’s also the case that opening up trade barriers, bringing them down and opening up the opportunities, provides our farmers with the chance to show on the world stage the amazing quality of U.K. produce,″ Gove told Sky News.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.
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