I believe the trade deal reached with Australia is an enormous opportunity for the UK. We are Australia’s second largest trading partner outside the Asia-Pacific and trade between our two countries was worth £18.8 billion in 2019. It also paves the way for UK membership of Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a group of 11 Pacific markets worth £9 trillion.
The deal will eliminate tariffs on all UK goods and support jobs across the country. People under the age of 35 will be able to travel and work in Australia more freely, British tech companies will benefit from enhanced access to the Australian market and there will be greater opportunities for UK professionals and service providers.
The trade agreement also contains a dedicated chapter on animal welfare – the first for an Australian trade deal – and imports to the UK will have to meet the same standards as they did before. This means that imports of hormone-treated beef will continue to be banned in the UK. British farmers will be further protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will provide independent scrutiny of animal welfare in the deal ahead of its ratification.
Every part of the UK is set to benefit from the agreement. Scotland exported £126 million worth of beverages to Australia in 2020 and the deal will remove tariffs of up to 5 per cent on Scotch Whisky. Machinery and manufacturing goods account for 90 per cent of Northern Ireland exports to Australia and the deal will remove tariffs and simplify customs procedures. The more than 450 businesses in Wales that exported to Australia last year will also benefit from the deal.
The trade agreement will be scrutinised by Parliament in the usual way. The agreement in principle will need to be converted into a legal text which can then be signed by UK and Australia. An explanatory memorandum and impact assessment will be published alongside the legal text. These documents will be reviewed by committees in Parliament and by the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission.
Under the requirements of the Agriculture Act 2020, the Government will also be required to set out the extent to which the measures in the trade agreement are consistent with maintaining UK protections for human, animal or plant life or health, animal welfare and the environment.
Once advice from the Commission and the report has been published, the agreement will be laid before Parliament. Under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, Parliament will have 21 days to raise concerns and resolve against ratification if it so chooses.
Furthermore, in all trade negotiations, I can assure you that the Government will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. This is a manifesto commitment. That is why I welcome the trade agreement reached with Australia. It facilitates trade while ensuring protections for human, animal and plant life and health. Decisions on pesticides continue to be a matter for the UK Government and the devolved administrations and imports to the UK will still have to meet the same food safety and biosecurity standards. The use of pesticides in the UK, more broadly, is based on scientific assessments. Pesticides which may carry unacceptable risks to people, or the environment will not be authorised.
In addition, global demand for meat is increasing rapidly. Meat consumption is projected to rise by nearly 73 per cent by 2050 and free trade agreements create huge new export opportunities for farmers. Demand is growing in the Asia-Pacific. The deal with Australia is also a gateway to joining CPTPP – a group of high-standards Pacific nations.
British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports through the use of tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. Australia will not have the same access as the EU until 15 years after entry into force of the Agreement. Agricultural producers are also being supported to increase exports overseas including in the Indo-Pacific.
Australia also has one of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, similar to our own, and scoring five out of five by the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE). The practices of castration of chickens and production of foie gras, for example, are banned in Australia on welfare grounds but continue to be permitted in the EU. Imports will still have to meet the same UK food safety and biosecurity standards as they did before. This means, for example, that imports of hormone-treated beef will continue to be banned.
Moreover, Australian export opportunities to the UK are likely to be limited. We are more likely to see prime steak for restaurants, rather than cheap imports flooding supermarket shelves. Australian imports of beef would likely displace current imports from the EU, not British produce. The EU accounts for the majority of beef imports into the UK with 237,928 tonnes imported in 2020 making up 98 per cent of total beef imports into the UK that year.
Additionally, Australian beef and lamb is already committed to the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific markets. Around 75 per cent of Australian beef exports, and 70 per cent sheep meat are imported to Asia-Pacific markets, where the costs of beef production can be twice as high than the UK in some markets. The prospect of substantive Australian imports of beef and sheep meat is very low.
There are strong ‘Buy British’ trends in the UK and strong support for British farmers – 81 per cent of beef sold in the UK is under the British logo, with Aldi, Budgens, the Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose all using 100 per cent British beef.
Finally, I can assure you that ministers are determined, as I am, to ensure that a trade deal will not threaten our ability to meet our environmental commitments. That is why I am glad that the agreement will include a dedicated chapter on trade and the environment. This will contain provisions encouraging trade and investment in environmental goods and services which support shared environment objectives. For the first time, Australia has also agreed to specific mention of the Paris Agreement in a free trade deal – a deal which also affirms the commitments of each country to tackle climate change and acknowledges the role of global trade in these efforts.