December 13, 2020
By William James
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s trade talks with Australia are advancing well, Trade Minister Liz Truss said on Sunday, speaking after the latest round of negotiations and with both sides having made initial offers on goods market access.
Britain stands on the brink of a disruptive break with the European Union, its largest trading partner, as talks to secure a long term trade deal grind into their final days ahead of Jan. 1, when transition arrangements that have kept it in the EU single market and customs union since formally leaving the bloc in January run out.
Regardless of that outcome, Britain wants to find new deals around the world, using its new-found freedom from collective EU trade policy to try to carve out fresh markets for its highly developed financial and professional services industries.
“Talks with Australia are advancing well,” Truss said in a statement to Reuters. “We’ve exchanged initial tariff offers and held detailed technical discussions on areas such as investment, professional business services and financial services.”
Trade with Australia in goods and services totalled 18.5 billion pounds in 2019, and the government estimates a free trade deal could eventually increase British exports to Australia by 900 million pounds.
Trade with the EU in 2019 was 668 billion pounds.
Britain is also pursuing bilateral deals with other major partners including the United States and New Zealand, and initial deals with Canada and Japan have been completed.
A deal with Australia is seen as an important step on the way to joining a wider free trade agreement known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The third round of talks with Australia concluded on Dec. 4 and involved technical discussions across 50 different areas.
“We want to carry this momentum into the next stage of negotiations and ultimately forge deeper links with a nation that shares our values of democracy, free enterprise, and human rights,” Truss said.
(Reporting by William James; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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