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Overview of the First Negotiating Round

The first round of negotiations on the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was held from 29 June to 10 July.  Australia and the UK expressed a shared ambition for achieving a comprehensive and ambitious agreement.

The Australian delegation was led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and included representatives from the Departments of: Agriculture, Water and the Environment; the Attorney-General; Employment and Skills; Finance; Home Affairs; Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications; IP Australia; Prime Minister and Cabinet; the Treasury; and the ACCC.

Due to travel restrictions resulting from COVD-19, the negotiations were conducted virtually. Discussions throughout the round were positive and productive, with over 30 videoconferences held between negotiating teams on goods, services, investment, legal, institutional and other cross-cutting issues. Australia drew on our past FTA practice to explain our approaches on key issues across the negotiations. The UK explained its approach to developing an independent trade policy including its positions on a number of key issues following its withdrawal from the European Union.  Having explored principles and policy positions at the first round, we look forward to making substantive progress at the second round of negotiations.

The second round of negotiations is expected to be held virtually in September 2020. Negotiators have agreed to work together intersessionally to maintain momentum, including to provide further information on respective approaches.

Australia remains committed to pursuing a deal that opens up new opportunities for our farmers, businesses and consumers, supports job creation and strengthens our economy as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Goods

Australia and the UK engaged in constructive discussions on trade in goods, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and customs procedures and trade facilitation. Both Parties outlined their approach and key priorities for the goods chapters, and exchanged information on issues such as domestic standards, conformance and regulatory environments. The groups also established areas of commonality across the goods chapters and discussed ways to enhance cooperation and transparency measures.

Services and investment

Negotiations on services and investment included productive sessions on trade in services, including professional services and business mobility, investment, financial services and telecommunications services. Both sides explained our respective regulatory systems and preferred FTA practice.

Australia and the UK held a principles-based discussion on digital trade. There was broad alignment on many issues including the importance of avoiding new paths for protectionism, including through rules on data flows and localisation, and ensuring appropriate protections for consumers.

Other FTA issues

In sessions on intellectual property, officials had useful exchanges on their published objectives and domestic settings. Negotiators also led technical discussions on Australian and UK copyright systems.

Australia and the UK also held discussions on the environment, government procurement, small and medium-sized enterprises, competition (including state-owned enterprises) and labour, where both Parties discussed objectives, desired scope for the chapters and past FTA practice. These discussions established clearer understandings of areas of common interest, and preferred approaches to the relevant chapters in the Agreement.

Legal and institutional issues

Australian and UK negotiators had productive discussions on our respective approaches to legal, institutional and cross-cutting provisions. Discussions highlighted our mutual desire to achieve high-ambition and best-practice provisions on transparency and anti-corruption, regulatory coherence, dispute settlement, general provisions and exceptions, initial provisions, and final provisions. Both Parties shared common approaches to these chapters, and agreed to provide further information on their respective systems as appropriate.

Complementary initiatives

Australia and the UK also had useful discussions on a range of issues that could complement the FTA, with the UK outlining its interest in a sustainable trade agenda and Australia signalling interest in initiatives such as youth mobility.

Stakeholder submissions

DFAT continues to welcome input from stakeholders on issues of relevance to the Australia-UK FTA negotiations. To provide input, or to make a submission, please email ukfta@dfat.gov.au.

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