ABC News Breakfast

31 May 2023


Lisa Millar, Host: Back home, the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the UK comes into effect today. It's hailed as good news for farmers, consumers and those seeking to work overseas.


Madeleine Morris, Host: While broadly welcomed, some measures will take some time though with ten years to phase in the ending of tariffs on beef and lamb exports. The Assistant Minister for Trade, Senator Tim Ayres joins us now from Parliament House. Great to have you on the program, on what's really an exciting day for Australian exporters.


Tim Ayres, Assistant Trade Minister and Assistant Manufacturing Minister: It is a really good news day for Australian exporters and for firms and workers who will now have more opportunity, more economic opportunity to export into this market. They are one of our oldest friends, of course, the United Kingdom. But this is a new chapter in the economic relationship, and it means new opportunities for Australian businesses and, as you pointed out in the introduction, the agricultural sector as well.


Madeleine Morris: Just in terms of a boost to our economy, what can we expect?


Assistant Minister: Well, this will mean about $200 million a year advantage for Australian consumers, about $4 billion worth of goods coming into the Australian market that will now be tariff‑free for our ‑‑


Madeleine Morris: Cheaper Branston Pickle.


Assistant Minister: That's exactly right; that's exactly right. There's a series of UK products that we've come to love, but it also means for exporters into the UK, 99 per cent of goods and services will be tariff‑free. There is significant progress, commercially meaningful progress on a whole series of agricultural goods, including our wine exporters and our red meat exporters, some of it comes into force straight away, some of the lift, the uplift in beef and lamb quotas, for example, is spread over a few years. But it is very -


Madeleine Morris: And why is there that delay, particularly the beef and lamb, which, you know, the UK would have been a really target and a great growth opportunity for those particular exporters?


Assistant Minister: Well, it's the outcome that's been negotiated between the two parties. It doesn't deliver a tariff‑free outcome or a quota‑free outcome in each of these areas immediately. It does substantially for many, many sectors, for wine, for example, straight away. But it's the agreed outcome, and of course it involves each of the countries working through with their stakeholders, the kind of changes that they can deliver.


It's been broadly welcomed by the agriculture sector, in particular, as being a big step forward, as we, you know, we keep working through the project of expanding Australia's access to global markets, but also making sure that we diversify our trading relationships.


Madeleine Morris: In a way this UK-Australia FTA is just a bit of a curtain raiser to the bigger game in town, which is the EU FTA which is still being negotiated. Now, that was expected to be done and dusted by early this year. That's now been pushed back to the middle of this year. Look, they do take a long time to work through, what are the holdups here, what are the snags; why haven't we got there yet?


Assistant Minister: Well, they're remarkably complex agreements and they are huge endeavours that involve ministerial engagement, but also, you know, dozens and dozens of officials from each of the countries working through the issues at the negotiating table, as well as working through the issues with Australian exporters and Australian firms and workers to make sure that the agreement is in the national interest.


In terms of the timing of the European Union-Australia Free Trade Agreement, I suppose, you know, we are keen to see it resolved, we're optimistic about the progress that we're making, but of course we're only going to sign off an agreement that's in the Australian national interest that demonstrably delivers for Australian firms and Australian workers.


There are some challenging issues, always in these negotiations the hard issues are left to the end, and we'll work through those in a careful way in the national interest, and you know, that will take the time that it takes. There is considerable momentum here, Madeleine, but I and the Trade Minister want to make sure that this deal is absolutely in the national interest.


Madeleine Morris: Okay, Senator Ayres, thanks very much for your time this morning.


Assistant Minister: Terrific, thanks for having me on the show.