The in-principle deal will allow farmers to ship tens of thousands of tonnes of meat to the UK tax-free every year as soon as it comes into force and remove tariffs on almost all other Australian products, the government says.
It’s designed to boost a trade relationship that was already worth more than $25 billion last year, according to the UK government, and is the country’s first major trade deal since Brexit.
“Australian producers and farmers will receive a significant boost by getting greater access to the UK market,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Trade Minister Dan Tehan said in a statement.
“Australian consumers will benefit from cheaper products, with all tariffs eliminated within five years, and tariffs on cars, whisky, and the UK’s other main exports eliminated immediately.
“The UK will liberalise Australian imports with 99 per cent of Australian goods, including Australian wine and short and medium grain milled rice, entering the UK duty-free when the agreement enters into force.”
The traditional young Australian pilgrimage to London will also get easier. The working holiday visa program is set to be expanded to include anyone up to 35 and give them three years to live in the motherland, instead of the current two.
Mr Morrison also promised “provisions to support mutual recognition of qualifications and greater certainty for skilled professionals entering the UK labour market”.
Similar visa relaxations apply for Brits, as well as the removal of their obligation to work on a farm for 88 days, a change that has alarm bells ringing for Nationals MPs.
“The National Party has made sure that if we are to give concessions, we need to look for other mechanisms in which to make up the shortfall, and the prime minister and Liberal Party have given us that undertaking,” Minister Littleproud told 9News.
The deal eliminates tariffs on Australian wines, swimwear and confectionery, supposedly saving British households up to £34 million ($62 million) a year.
A cap remains on tax-free imports of some meats, a concession to UK producers worried about a cheaper product with different regulations flooding the market.
But it will be phased out over 15 years.
Beef imports to the UK will be taxed beyond 35,000 tonnes in the first year, rising to 110,000 tonnes in the tenth and eventually to nothing after 15 years.
The UK has imported about 33,500 tonnes of beef from Australia since 2013, according to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
The caps on lamb rise from 25,000 tonnes to 75,000 over 10 years before disappearing after 15 years and sugar will be tax-free after a similar eight-year transition period.
Dairy farmers don’t miss out either, gaining the ability to ship 24,000 tonnes of cheese and 20,000 tonnes of other products tax-free as soon as the deal comes into force, with limits phased out over five years.
The new agreement, the final text of which is yet to be finalised, also paves the way for the UK to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
According to the UK government, Scottish drink exports to Australia, presumably mostly whisky, topped £126 million ($230 million), while the UK as a whole exported £5.4 billion ($9.9 billion) worth of services.
“Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement issued earlier in the day.
He highlighted cheaper prices for UK cars, biscuits and ceramics sold to Australia.