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Future Trading Relationship with Australia

Volume 691: debated on Monday 15 March 2021

The fourth round of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Australia took place between Monday 22 February and Friday 5 March. During the two weeks, negotiators held 51 negotiation sessions, covering 27 different chapter areas. In total, we have had 170 sessions since launching negotiations in July 2020.

Both the negotiation teams shared text and additional proposals before the round, including on digital, labour and technical barriers to trade, allowing negotiators to enhance their substantive conversations. From this, negotiators were able to build mutual understanding, and make further progress consolidating texts in most chapter areas. Focused engagement has enabled negotiators to provisionally identify shared ambition and remaining points of divergence to work through ahead of the next round.

Good progress has been made in areas including customs, rules of origin, and professional services. The majority of text has been agreed in chapters on good regulatory practice, as well as small to medium-sized enterprises. Development in the latter reflects the commitment of both Australia and the UK to ensuring businesses of all sizes can benefit from the FTA.

Some text was agreed in cross-border trade in services. Negotiators were also able to hold technical discussions on mobility, international maritime transport services, express delivery services and domestic regulation.

Meanwhile, progress was also made on procurement and digital, with parts of the text agreed. In addition, there were productive discussions on the innovation chapter.

Discussions were taken forward on investment, where we hope to include provisions which further enhance our strong bilateral relationship, building on the UK’s position as the second largest direct investor in Australia and the second largest recipient of Australian foreign direct investment in 2019.

The Australia and UK negotiation teams have also planned an intensive period of intersessional discussions in the coming weeks to continue this momentum ahead of a fifth round of talks.

Below is a summary list of the areas discussed in the round, which continued to take place by video conference:



Customs and trade facilitation



Environment and clean growth

Financial services

Good regulatory practice


Intellectual property



Legal and institutional provisions

Government procurement

Rules of origin

Sanitary and phytosanitary measures

Services, including movement of natural persons, professional services, international maritime transport services and delivery services.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

State-to-state dispute settlement

Technical barriers to trade


Trade and women’s economic empowerment

Trade in goods


Any deal the UK Government agree will be fair and balanced and in the best interests of the whole of the UK. As we will in all negotiations, we remain committed to upholding our high environmental, labour, product and food safety, and animal welfare standards in our trade agreement with Australia, as well as protecting the national health service (NHS).