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UK signs trade agreement with Australia, first after Brexit

15 Jun 2021 03:10 PM

The British government announced today that Britain and Australia have agreed "in principle" to a free trade agreement, a deal that will eventually eliminate tariffs between the two countries. This is Britain's first trade deal since its exit from the European Union, and the deal was reached in less than a year of negotiations.

Details of the agreement have not yet been released, but the government has said it will include a 15-year cap on duty-free imports, a measure aimed at appeasing British farmers worried about the influx of beef and sheep imports from Australia. The government said the agreement would also allow Britons under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia more easily.

The deal was finalized during a dinner in Downing Street, the British prime minister's residence, on Monday as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in Britain after the G7 meetings.

The free-trade agreement has been entirely negotiated since Britain formally withdrew from the European Union in January 2020. Britain has signed dozens of other trade agreements recently, but these, like the one with Japan, have mostly been replicated for pre-Brexit market access.

The Australia deal is part of Britain's broader trade ambitions, including joining the Comprehensive and Advanced Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade pact signed by 11 countries after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Australia is one of the founding members of that agreement, and Britain's accession process began in early June.

Since Brexit, Britain has been eager to prove that it is an outward-looking nation, actively embodying the mantra of "Global Britain". But the urgency with which it looks to write new trade agreements has recently been attacked by food and agricultural groups, who fear the government will allow products with lower production standards.

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