The UK government has today introduced a bill which will help to bring into force its first independently negotiated Free Trade Agreements in more than 50 years.
The UK signed the Australia Agreement in December and the New Zealand Agreement in February. Together, they will deliver benefits to people, businesses and communities throughout the country and support the levelling-up agenda.
The UK-Australia Agreement is expected to increase trade by 53 percent, boost the economy by £2.3 billion and increase wages each year in the long-run. The UK-New Zealand Agreement is expected to increase trade by almost 60 percent and boost the economy by £800 million.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:
I am excited to see the UK implement its first ‘from scratch’ Free Trade Agreements in over 50 years and deliver on a key Brexit benefit – having our own independent trade policy.
This Bill will enable us to export our world-class goods and services and bring high-quality imports at reduced rates for British customers.
Introducing this Bill is an important step in ratifying these trade agreements so that UK businesses can begin benefiting and expanding their trade with Australia and New Zealand as soon as possible. To bring these agreements into force, the following will have to happen:
- Parliament must formally scrutinise the agreements under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.
- The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill has to be agreed by Parliament.
- Necessary secondary legislation has to be passed by Parliament to make the changes required to our procurement regime to meet the terms of the Agreements.
- Only once the steps above have been completed can these agreements be ratified and brought into force.
The Government say in line with their commitment to transparency and scrutiny, they have:
- Published the full text for both agreements as soon as they were signed, along with full independently scrutinised impact assessments.
- Ensured the Trade and Agriculture Commission – a panel of independent experts – has over three months to report on the agreements. The Trade & Agriculture Commission’s report on the UK-Australia Agreement was published on 13 April. The Commission is due to report on the UK-New Zealand Agreement in June.
International treaties are negotiated and then entered into force by the government. Treaties do not always require legislation to come into force, but on some occasions changes to domestic law might be needed to implement a trade deal. For these agreements, this Bill will change rules on procurement which in turn will widen access for UK suppliers to procurement opportunities in Australia and New Zealand. The changes are needed to give Australian and Kiwi suppliers rights to access the benefits of the Agreements.
The new commitments in free trade agreements like these will not affect the power the UK has to reform its domestic procurement rules.
Both the UK-Australia and UK-New Zealand free trade agreements include commitments to addressing climate change like decarbonisation and increasing innovation in green sectors.
For the first time, UK service suppliers including architects, scientists, researchers, lawyers and accountants will have access to visas to work in Australia without being subject to Australia’s changing skilled occupation list.
Britons aged 18 to 35 will also be able to travel and work in Australia with a Working Holiday Maker Visa for up to three years.
The agreements include protections for the agriculture industry and food and drink quality standards, with all imports needing to comply with the UK’s food regulations.