Liz Truss – 2021 Speech on the Trade Deal Between the UK and Australia

The speech made by Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for International Trade, in the House of Commons on 17 June 2021.

I wish to make a statement on the new UK-Australia free trade agreement secured by our Prime Ministers this Tuesday. We have agreed a truly historic deal, which is the first negotiated from scratch by the United Kingdom since leaving the European Union. This gold-standard agreement shows what the UK is capable of as a sovereign trading nation: securing huge benefits such as zero-tariff access to Australia for all British goods and world-leading provisions for digital and services, while making it easier for Brits to live and work in Australia.

The agreement also paves the way for the UK’s accession to the vast market covered by the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, coupling us with some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies worth £9 trillion in global gross domestic product. Our Australia deal shows that global Britain is a force for free and fair trade around the world. We believe in 21st-century trade. We do not see it as a zero-sum game like our critics, who doubt we can compete and win in the global marketplace. We want to be nimble, positive and open to new ideas, talent and products, without sacrificing our sovereignty.

We have laid out the core benefits of this deal in the agreement in principle document. It means that £4.3 billion-worth of goods exports will no longer have to pay tariffs to enter the Australian market, from Scotch whisky and Stoke-on-Trent ceramics to the 10,000 cars we currently export from the north of England. Meanwhile, we will enjoy greater choice and top value in Aussie favourites such as wine, swimwear and biscuits. Young Brits under the age of 35 will be able to live and work in Australia for up to three years with no strings attached. Our work and mobility agreement goes beyond what Australia agreed with Japan or the US, making it much easier for Brits to live and work in Australia.

We have agreed strong services and digital chapters that secure the free flow of data and the right for British lawyers and other professionals to work in Australia without needing to requalify. We have secured access to billions of pounds in Government procurement, which would benefit businesses such as Leeds-based Turner and Townsend, which is contracted to expand the Sydney Metro.

This deal promotes high standards, with the first animal welfare chapter in an Australian trade deal, as well as strong provisions on climate change, gender equality and development. On agriculture, it is important that we have a proper transition period. That is why we have agreed 15 years of capped tariff-free imports from Australia, which means that Australian farmers will only have the same access to the UK market as EU farmers in 2036. We should use this time to expand our beef and lamb exports to the CPTPP markets, which are expected to account for a quarter of global meat demand by 2030. I do not buy this defeatist narrative that British agriculture cannot compete. We have a high-quality, high-value product that people want to buy, particularly in the growing middle classes of Asia.

This Australia deal is another key step to joining the trans-Pacific partnership, a market of 500 million people that has high-standards trade, 95% tariff-free access and very strong provisions in digital and services, which are of huge benefit to Britain, the second largest services exporter in the world. It covers the fastest growing parts of the world, where Britain needs to be positioned in the coming decades. While some look to the past and cling to static analysis based on what the world is like today, we are focused on the future and what the world will be like in 2030, 2040 and 2050.

Of course, Parliament will have its full opportunity to scrutinise this agreement. Our processes are in line with those of other parliamentary democracies, such as Canada and New Zealand; the Trade and Agriculture Commission will play a full role, providing expert and independent advice; and the House can rest assured that this deal upholds our world-class standards, from food safety and animal welfare to the environment.

Following the agreement in principle, we will finalise the text of the full FTA agreement, which will then undergo a legal scrub before being presented to Parliament, alongside an economic impact assessment. I look forward to further scrutiny from the Select Committee on International Trade and the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This deal means we have now struck agreements with 68 countries plus the EU, securing trade relations worth £744 billion as of last year. The deal with our great friend and ally Australia is just the start of our new post-Brexit trade agreements. It is fundamentally about what kind of country we want Britain to be. Do we want to be a country that embraces opportunity, looks to the future, and believes its industries can compete and that its produce is just what the world wants? Or do we accept the narrative some peddle that we need to stay hiding behind the same protectionist walls that we had in the EU, because we cannot possibly compete and succeed? To my mind, the answer lies in free trade. Our country has always been at its best when it has been a free-trading nation. This deal is a glimpse into Britain’s future—a future where we are a global hub for digital and services, where our high-quality food and drink and manufactured goods are enjoyed across the world, and where we are open to the best that our friends and allies have to offer. That is what this deal represents, and I commend this statement to the House.