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UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement

Volume 724: debated on Thursday 15 December 2022

The UK-Australia free trade agreement is expected to unlock more than £10 billion pounds of additional bilateral trade. We are working at pace to implement it, so that businesses can benefit from it as soon as possible. The Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill is making its passage through Parliament. It passed Report and Third Reading on Monday, and was introduced into the House of Lords on 13 December. The Government and the devolved Administrations are working together to progress the required statutory instruments to implement the agreement. We expect the free trade agreement to come into force in spring 2023.

The UK-Australia trade deal has been beset by difficulties and major delays to its passage through this House, and even the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), no longer has to put a “positive gloss” on what was agreed. I, too, have serious concerns about the impact of the deal on Welsh and UK farmers. Will the Minister explain the delay behind the scenes? What discussions have been had with business managers about the delays to the Bill’s passage through the House, and will he give us some clarity?

I would like to correct the hon. Gentleman. We are progressing at pace, and we are having conversations with the devolved Administrations—indeed, I had conversations with Ministers from Wales and Scotland recently. Overall, enthusiasm for the deals is considerable right across the UK. Let us not forget that they will boost the economy, to the tune of £2.3 billion for the Australia deal and more than £800 million for the New Zealand deal. That will bring huge benefits right across the country, and all nations of the UK will benefit from a 53% and 59% boost to bilateral trade through the Australia and New Zealand deals respectively. We all want to move at pace, and we are having constructive conversations with the devolved Administrations.

The UK- Australia free trade agreement is, so the House has been told, a stepping stone to accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. As we saw on Monday, it is not clear that Ministers have learned the lessons from the rushed negotiations on the Australia deal, and there is real concern that the existing rules of the CPTPP will be largely forced on Britain. I am sure the Minister will not want Britain to be a rule taker, so can he assure us that we will not be subject to any new secret courts through the investor-state dispute settlement?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that discussions with the CPTPP are ongoing, and we are confident that we will strike a mutually beneficial and extremely good deal. I advise him to watch this space.