Transcript, E&OE

Topics: Free trade deal with the UK.
18 June 2020

Samantha Armytage: Young Aussies will find it easier to work in the UK and thousands of businesses are set to benefit from a proposed new trade agreement with Britain. Virtual talks have been underway overnight to revamp work visas and provide new export opportunities, especially for agriculture. And according to UK PM Boris Johnson, that’s not all.


Boris Johnson: I want a world in which we send you Marmite, you send us Vegemite, we send you penguins and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott’s Tim Tams.

[End of excerpt]

Samantha Armytage: The UK is currently our seventh largest trading partner for goods and services. And Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now from Canberra. Minister, good morning to you.

Simon Birmingham: Good day, Sam.

Samantha Armytage: Now, how much could this free trade agreement be worth to the Australian economy? It’s a lot more than Vegemite and Tim Tams, isn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: It is a lot more than Vegemite and Tim Tams. Although Tim Tams do face an eight per cent tariff or tax when they enter the UK. So we want to see that eliminated, along with a lot of those other barriers to trade. It could be worth, in total, many, many hundreds of millions of dollars of benefit to Australian exporters. That means our sheep graziers, our winemakers, our grain growers, but also in the services industry, health care providers, financial services sector; and there are a number of different areas of opportunity to grow our trade there with the UK.

Samantha Armytage: Fantastic. Okay. So they get Tim Tams and Vegemite and a lot more and we get penguins and Marmite. So, so far, they’re getting the better end of the deal as far as food. But what kind of industries – you mentioned healthcare there. So could we see sort of more of our nurses go to Britain, for instance?

Simon Birmingham: So there are a number of Australian healthcare providers already doing great work in the United Kingdom and there’s an opportunity to look at all of those areas as to how we can harmonise standards, look at mutual recognition arrangements for different qualifications. We’ve got an amazing history between Australia and the UK around the flow of people, for it’s a rite of passage for so many young Brits to come out here and for so many young Australians to head out over there. And we want to make sure that that is as easy as possible to ensure we encourage that growth of jobs and activity. You know, one in five Australian jobs is now trade related and trade dependent and this deal is about securing those jobs as we recover from COVID-19 and many more into the future hopefully.

Samantha Armytage: Yes. I know back in my day, you could only get one visa to work over there as a young person. Is there any plans to change that, expand that a little bit, so young Aussies can travel and do that rite of passage working in London or wherever they want to work over there?

Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s a trade deal first, it’s not an open borders arrangement. But we will absolutely have a look at where we can, making sure that skilled and professional people find it easier to work in each other’s countries and that we open up those arrangements in a sensible way that protects jobs and grows jobs for each other because that’s our ambition. It’s done, first and foremost, about the employment opportunities for Australians and indeed, making sure that it’s mutually beneficial for each country.

Samantha Armytage: And just quickly, how much of this trade agreement with Britain is about moving away from our reliance on China?

Simon Birmingham: We’ve been at it for years now in cracking trade deals with many different countries. China was one of them but so was Japan, the Republic of Korea. The Trans-Pacific Partnership which gave us deals with Canada, with Mexico, with Vietnam, the Indonesia deal that comes into force on the 5th of July. This is just the next step. A deal with the European Union and with the United Kingdom have long been slated. We now just want to get those done because it will be so crucial to how we rebound from COVID.

Samantha Armytage: Okay. Well Simon Birmingham, I have a sister who lives in London and she will love to be able to buy Tim Tams. So well done so far. Keep us posted.

Simon Birmingham: Great news, Sam. Thank you.

Samantha Armytage: Thanks for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Cheers.