SYDNEY- As Britain’s negotiations with the European Union on a post-Brexit trade deal go down to the wire, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his country could trade with the bloc on similar terms to Australia, if no agreement is reached.
But Australia itself is far from happy with its arrangements with the EU and is pushing for the better market access that only a fully-fledged trade deal with the wealthy 27-member bloc and its 500 million potential customers would bring.
Now, the bulk of Australia’s 15 billion euros ($18 billion) exports to the EU are subject to tariffs and quotas set under basic World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.
That’s why Australian exporters are backing Canberra’s moves to strike a new free trade agreement (FTA) with Brussels so they can get the certainty they need to invest and plan.
“If they’re emulating our current access to Europe, it is a fairly fractured and limited access, so it’s an interesting one they’d like to copy,” Andrew McDonald, director of NH Foods Australia, a Japaneseowned beef producer based in Sydney with three processing facilities in eastern Australia, told Reuters.
Britain’s aspirations for its future trading relationship with the EU have been gradually whittled down as disagreements between the two have emerged in often prickly negotiations following Britain’s exit from the EU on Jan. 31.
Attempts by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 to secure a “bespoke” deal with the EU were given short shrift in Brussels. Her successor Johnson acknowledges any deal would have to be based on precedents and has cited the EU’s tariff-cutting 2014 agreement with Canada as a possible model.
As talks stalled this year, Johnson said Britain could also live with an Australian-style arrangement.
Given that Australia does not have a free-trade agreement with the EU, domestic critics say the phrase is simply a euphemism for a no-deal.
On Sept. 7, Johnson repeated the view that an Australian-style EU deal would be a “good outcome” for Britain and this has become the government line.