This report reviews one proposed treaty action: the Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (AUKFTA).
The Committee received a request from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to expedite its consideration of the AUKFTA and agreed the exceptional circumstances cited were such that it would report in 13 joint sitting days rather than the Committee’s convention of 20 joint sitting days.
The AUKFTA reflects the longstanding importance, quality, and depth of the political, cultural, and economic relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) while looking to set a framework for future trade and cooperation.
As a modern and comprehensive free trade agreement, the AUKFTA’s 32 chapters cover the full scope of trade and regulatory matters, as well as reaching into new areas like gender equality and animal welfare.
The AUKFTA has the potential to contribute to the diversification of Australia’s trade, and by setting an example, to promote further balanced liberalisation in the multilateral system.
While there remain some barriers to trade in goods, particularly quotas on red meat, the fact is that on entry into force 99 per cent of Australian goods exports by value would enter the UK without tariffs. The liberalisation of the rules for services and investment also has the potential to open new markets for Australian service suppliers. Notable areas on which the Committee provides specific comment in this report are undertakings with regard to the temporary entry for business persons, and the potential territorial extension of the AUKFTA.
The Committee also returns to two perennial concerns—independent economic analysis and impact assessments, and genuine consultation. The Committee, relevant stakeholders, and the Australian community as a whole are restricted in their ability to examine the potential economic and broader impacts of trade agreements, and cannot subsequently judge their achievements because they are not accompanied by independent economic modelling. This is a long-running concern of the Committee and the subject of a recommendation in this report, as are its concerns about the mechanics and substance of the consultation process during negotiation.
The Committee nevertheless supports the AUKFTA and recommends binding treaty action be taken.