Opinion: There’s a lot we don’t know about the UK trade agreement we are about to sign
'There’s a lot we don’t know about the UK trade agreement we are about to sign', 16 June 2021
"We’re being told about the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, but not a lot about most of what’s in it.
After an in-principle agreement overnight, Australia released a five-page summary.
Australian farmers will benefit from tariff-free access to the UK for limited amounts of Australian beef, lamb, sugar and dairy products to the UK (but will have to wait ten years for the full elimination of tariffs). Australian consumers will benefit from immediate zero tariffs on products like UK whiskey and cars. Longer working holiday visas may be available for citizens from both countries.
It will take at least a month for the deal to be finalised and signed, and only after the signing will the Australian public see the full text and a parliamentary committee be given the right to inquire into it but not change it.
This secrecy continues what’s become something of a tradition — one that has attracted the ire of the Productivity Commission which in 2010 recommended the government commission and publish an independent and transparent assessment of future free trade agreements “at the conclusion of negotiations but before an agreement is signed”.
The parliament’s joint standing committee on treaties (the same one that will examine this agreement) began inquiring into the system mid last year and took many submissions, but still has not reported..."